'This club is not for sale,' says Mort

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The Independent Football

The Newcastle United chairman, Chris Mort, reiterated yesterday that the club is not up for sale, nor is the owner, Mike Ashley, touting it around. Mort's statement came a day after the publication of accounts that are an indictment of the previous regime at St. James' Park and which show that wages now claim a massive 72 per cent of Newcastle's income. It is generally accepted in football that a club should spend no more than 50 per cent on wages.

"Mike has never tried to sell the club," Mort said. "People have called us and asked us if we were interested in selling the club and the answer is always no. Mike is the owner of the club, he is very happy to be the owner and is not encouraging me to sell the club. He still enjoys his Saturday football; obviously he'd enjoy it more if the results were better. He gets on with Kevin [Keegan] very well and still enjoys being at Newcastle."

The accounts revealed that Ashley had to pump in an immediate £45m within 60 days of his £138m takeover to cover loans. In total, Newcastle made a £32m loss in 2007, including £1m severance payment to Glenn Roeder. Some of the cost of sacking Graeme Souness, Roeder's predecessor, was also present – £3.2m.

Mort once again quashed the idea that Chris Hughton had been appointed as coach last week without Keegan's say-so – "It was Kevin's lead, Kevin's suggestion and he was keen for it to happen" – and he backed Keegan, even though Newcastle are yet to win under him in seven matches in the Premier League and FA Cup.

"He has come into a club that was not playing well and the results reflected that, and it was always going to be difficult to turns things around," Mort said of the Newcastle manager. "The board is 100 per cent behind Kevin, and there is no worry that he will walk away."

Newcastle Remaining games

8 March (a) Liverpool, 17 March (a) Birmingham, 22 March (h) Fulham, 30 March (a) Tottenham, 5 April (h) Reading, 12 April (a) Portsmouth, 19 April (h) Sunderland, 26 April (a) West Ham, 3 May (h) Chelsea, 11 May (a) Everton

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