The prospect of Newcastle United spending the new season under the ownership of Mike Ashley and the managerial hand of David O'Leary edged closer yesterday with no breakthrough in takeover discussions with Tyneside businessman Barry Moat.
If no deal is forthcoming by the end of the week – Ashley is understood to feel that Moat and his backers are £10m short – one appears increasingly unlikely with only two weeks of the transfer window remaining for a prospective new owner to refashion the side. As things stand, the odds seem set against a deal going ahead, leaving Ashley at the helm of the club and ready to turn to O'Leary.
Uncertainty about the sale process is heightened by the lack of clarity about the price Ashley is demanding, which ranges from £70m to £90m, though there is a correlation between the number of players the club can get moved on, so reducing the wage bill, and the figure Ashley will expect. Ashley certainly seems to feel that Moat's offer is unrealistic, which has lessened the prospect of Alan Shearer being appointed manager – as is Moat's desire. An associate of Ashley's suggested yesterday that he might be at St James' Park for Newcastle's first home game of the Championship season against Reading on Saturday.