Hall attempts to halt discontent at Newcastle

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The Independent Football

Sir John Hall has defended Freddy Shepherd after a small number of fans turned on the Newcastle chairman during the derby defeat at Middlesbrough.

The support of Sir John, the former chairman,for Shepherd comes on the day the club were prompted to deny that they had received a formal takeover bid.

Now life president of the club, Sir John admitted that United had wasted money on inappropriate players but feels the club's struggling board will get things back on track. He insisted that their manager, Glenn Roeder, deserved time to prove himself despite Newcastle having won just two League games this season.

Shepherd was not available for comment yesterday and no one at the club was able to comment on reports that the chairman's wife, Lorelle, was taken to hospital with a heart problem on Sunday about the same time as the Magpies were losing to Boro. Sources at the club said Shepherd did not want to be seen attempting to win any sympathy vote.

Sir John said: "I am very surprised and disappointed with what has happened at Sunday's defeat when, as I understand, a small group of fans chanted for a short time. I believe it has been blown out of all proportion by sections of the media.

"Like I did before him, Freddy Shepherd has backed every Newcastle United manager in the transfer market to the limit of the club's resources. And, like me, he cannot legislate for what happens on the field. That is up to the manager and the players.

"It is clear to me and everyone that some of the players brought by previous managers simply have not been good enough. In fact, our fans must look in amazement at some of the vast sums of money paid out for players who are not good enough for this football club."

Reports yesterday morning suggested that Jersey-based investment group Belgravia were in negotiations with all Newcastle shareholders over a takeover, with a spokesman "hopeful" of a positive outcome.

But the club issued a short statement during the afternoon saying: "The company has not received a formal offer proposal from any entity."

Roeder will hope for a respite from the club's poor Premiership form when his side take on Portsmouth in the Carling Cup tonight.

Roeder has so far not had the resources available to his predecessors, including Graeme Souness, who spent a combined £34m on Jean-Alain Boumsong, Albert Luque and Michael Owen.

Sir John added: "Since the Halls and the Shepherds took over the club, we have spent over £200m on players as well as making St James' Park one of the best stadia in Europe, so none of our managers can say that we have not backed them.

"Now we have to get it right again. We know we have to get it right. Like every other fan, I'm disappointed that we are not winning games at the moment and not scoring goals."