Llambias to lead St James' Park rebuilding after Mort departs

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The Independent Online

Newcastle will have a new man at the executive helm as they attempt to re-establish themselves among the major players of the Premier League.

The club yesterday confirmed that their chairman, Chris Mort, has stood down from the post to which he was appointed around a year ago after overseeing a strategic review at St James' Park.

His place will be taken by the businessman Derek Llambias, who will have the new title of managing director. Llambias said: "Since coming to work at Newcastle United, I have quickly begun to appreciate the passion people have for the football club.

"I firmly believe we have the right people with the right expertise, with Kevin Keegan back as manager and being fully supported by Mike Ashley and the directors, to take the club forward again. I would like to pay tribute to all of the hard work done by Chris during his time at St James' Park and wish him every success for the future."

Llambias, who was appointed deputy chairman last month, is a long-term acquaintance of the club's owner Ashley and has more than 30 years' experience in the entertainment and leisure industry. His most recent position was as managing director of the exclusive Fifty Club in London.

Llambias will lead a management team which also includes the executive director (operations), David Williamson, and executive director (football), Dennis Wise.

Yesterday's announcement was not unexpected after it emerged last month that Mort was to return to his role as a partner with the City law firm Freshfields, following what was always planned as a sabbatical at St James' Park.

His reign has been nothing if not eventful after he succeeded Freddy Shepherd at the helm following a short spell working alongside the former chairman. He and Ashley dispensed with the services of the manager Sam Allardyce in January amid a fans' revolt, as an alarming dip in results gathered pace. They sprang a major surprise when, after courting the Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, they persuaded Keegan to return to Tyneside as manager.

The transition from one regime to another has not always been smooth – Ashley was shocked at the club's debt burden and a reduction in spending was one of Mort's main briefs. In addition, the owner was dismayed by Keegan's public assessment of the gap between Newcastle and the top four and demanded an explanation.

Mort will return to the capital having experienced an entirely different type of working life, but insisting he has enjoyed it. He said: "From the moment I arrived in the North-east, I received the warmest of welcomes and I must thank the people of Newcastle. Having experienced the unique atmosphere generated at St James' Park on match days, and also by the Newcastle United supporters on our travels away, I look forward to supporting the team next season."

Llambias's first major task will be to preside over the club's summer recruitment drive with Keegan due to return from his holiday in the next few days. The manager agreed a list of targets with Wise and his team at the end of last season and headed off on his break awaiting developments.

Despite frenzied speculation ever since, nothing has yet materialised, although the club is understood to have tabled a £10m bid for the St Etienne striker Bafétimbi Gomis and links with the Turkey international midfielder Arda Turan persist.

In addition, reports from Merseyside continue to tout James Milner as a big-money target for Liverpool, while Arsenal have been mooted as a possible destination for the goalkeeper Shay Given should the Magpies decide to cash in on one of their most saleable assets.

The hierarchy at St James' has given little away as to their targets or the amount of money at Keegan's disposal, but with the deadline for season-ticket renewals due later this month and prices up, a statement of intent is yet to be made.

The Southampton pair Nathan Dyer and Bradley Wright-Phillips have been charged with burglary after items were allegedly stolen from a nightclub staff room, police have said.

Dyer, 20, and Wright-Phillips, 23, were charged following an incident at the Bar Bluu club in Southsea on 28 February. The pair both attended Portsmouth Central Police Station, where they were charged and bailed to appear before the city's magistrates' court on 8 July.

Dyer and Wright-Phillips, who is the son of the former England international Ian Wright and younger half-brother of Chelsea and England's Shaun Wright-Phillips, were arrested after staff at the nightclub reported the alleged thefts.

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