Alan Shearer's desire to be appointed permanent manager of Newcastle United has not been affected by owner Mike Ashley's decision to put the club up for sale again, but Shearer's future in part now rests on the accountants of the banks involved in brokering a sale and those dealing with Newcastle's existing loans.
Shearer was not taken by surprise when news of Ashley's decision to sell filtered out on Saturday night. In the discussions between the two men last week Ashley made it clear that he was planning to sell up and that he was prepared to take a massive hit on the £250m he says that he has put into Newcastle. The price is £100m and in the current climate, Ashley is likely to be forced to accept less.
The presence last Wednesday at the training ground of Keith Harris, the banker commissioned to broker a deal for Ashley when he first put Newcastle on the market last September, was significant and Harris's bank Seymour Pierce has again been charged with finding a buyer. It was being said in the City of London yesterday that there is a candidate already in the wings. Seymour Pierce will be officially appointed today.
An outline four-year contract for Shearer and his assistants Iain Dowie and Paul Ferris has been agreed, but until that is ratified by banks dealing with outstanding financial details, there are unlikely to be any signatures. It is hoped within the club that the issue can be sorted out this week.
Ashley agrees that selling the club with Shearer already on board and making decisions makes it more attractive, and transfer details and budgets have again been agreed upon. But a prospective buyer, or bank guarantors, would presumably wish to have some input into Shearer's contract, particularly if it is for four years.
The £150m-£180m loss that Ashley is set to incur means that the debts he inherited from the previous regime at St James' Park are wiped out. In time that will come to be seen as his greatest contribution to an otherwise frighteningly unstable two years at the club.
Shearer's eight-game contract expired eight days ago but the 38-year-old still went into the training ground every day last week and is expected to do so again this week. But Shearer needs and wants to get on with reshaping the relegated squad. Michael Owen is one of those who will depart, his contract is up and it is implausible that he will be offered another, but Everton's interest may not be as strong as Owen hopes.
Ashley's perceived disillusion on Tyneside became clear when he was quoted on Saturday night saying: "It [his ownership] has been catastrophic for everybody. I've lost my money and I've made terrible decisions. Now I want to sell it as soon as I can ... advisers will be appointed shortly."
Asked if he regretted buying the club he said: "Of course I regret it. I never said I was an expert in football clubs. I was just a fan – although a very wealthy fan. But I'm not so wealthy now. I put my money into it and I tried my best. But I accept my best was woefully short. I am genuinely sorry for everybody about what has happened."
"Newcastle's best asset has been, is and always will be the fans," he added. "But like any business with assets, the club has debts. I paid £134m out of my own pocket for the club. I then poured another £110m into the club, not to pay off the debt, but just to reduce it."