Newcastle await decision on tribunal claim

Newcastle fear a massive compensation pay-out to former boss Kevin Keegan could see the club plunged into administration.

A Premier League independent arbitration panel convened to hear Keegan's case for constructive dismissal is scheduled to draw to a close tomorrow.

The outcome could have major financial implications for the Magpies, who have made savage cuts in expenditure since relegation from the Barclays Premier League at the end of last season.

Press Association Sport understands the worst-case scenario for the club could see them presented with a bill which would far exceed the reported £9million value of the claim against them, and that would leave them with a huge decision to make.

Opting to go into administration, which would invoke a 10-point penalty, would be the most extreme avenue open to owner Mike Ashley, and while the current regime have always insisted they would not take that path, it remains a last-resort possibility with the club's budget already under intense pressure.

Relegation slashed the club's income - estimates of the drop vary between £35million and £50million - and a wage bill of £74million has been more than halved by a mass exodus of high earners since.

Newcastle currently lie second in the Coca-Cola Championship, just a point behind leaders West Brom, but any promotion push would be substantially undermined by a loss of points off the pitch.

The club and Keegan have been in dispute ever since the former England boss departed St James' Park a year ago, allegedly in protest at the summer transfer policy which had presented him with Spanish striker Xisco and loan signing Ignacio Gonzalez.

The counter-argument is that he knew the of the policy in advance and in walking out, broke his contract.

Repeated attempts at arbitration have failed to reach a solution, and the situation has done little to ease the sale of the club with prospective new owners waiting to see the size of the tab they might have to pick up.

In the meantime, caretaker boss Chris Hughton, who took up the reins once again after Ashley decided not to appoint Alan Shearer and instead put the club back on the market, will simply get on with his job.

Asked about the off-the-field situation as he prepared his players for Saturday's trip to Ipswich, he said: "I am aware of everything that's been said, but as far as we are concerned, it is all speculation.

"We can only deal with what we know and believe are facts, and the most important fact for us at the moment is that we are playing Ipswich on Saturday and we want to get a result."

There was welcome progress on the playing side today, however, with Hughton confirming a three-month loan deal for Aston Villa striker Marlon Harewood has been agreed.

The 30-year-old could go straight into the squad for the game at Portman Road along with fellow newcomer Zurab Khizanishvili, and provide a new threat for the Magpies.

Hughton said: "What we were desperate to do was bring in a different type of striker to what we already have here in Andy Carroll, Shola Ameobi and Nile Ranger, who has done ever so well for us.

"He will give us experience, power and pace, and it is also an exciting and big challenge for him."

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