Shepherd fury at reports of bugging at Newcastle

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The Independent Football

The former Newcastle United chairman Freddy Shepherd reacted angrily yesterday to reports that Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer, among others, had been bugged by the previous board.

Brian Tough, who was initially taken on as bodyguard to Douglas Hall, the son of the club's former owner Sir John Hall, sold his story to a Sunday paper and claimed to have tapped the home telephone of Keegan, who managed the club from 1992 until 1997, and also to have secretly filmed Shearer in August 1999, when the striker was in conflict with the then manager Ruud Gullit and there were doubts about his future at the club.

Tough claims Shearer was recorded in Shepherd's office discussing his future, with the implication that, had he not pledged to stay, the evidence would have been used against him. Tough said that a local newspaper editor also had his phone tapped and that the Sunderland chairman, Bob Murray, was another victim. Sunderland were planning to build the Stadium of Light at the time and Newcastle, it is said, wanted to know of their rivals' plans.

"This is James Bond stuff," Shepherd said. "I certainly didn't employ anyone in 007 activities at St James' Park. Mr Tough was never employed by me or the club."

Most worrying for fans, perhaps, is Tough's claim that the Save Our Seats campaign was also targeted at the club's behest. A planned fly-past protest was sabotaged, he said, when he "bunged" a local airline £200,000 to say the aircraft was "unfit to fly."

A Newcastle spokesman said: "This story relates to a previous era and has no relevance to how the club is run under the new regime."