Mort blames takeover stories on 'malicious rumours'

The Newcastle United chairman, Chris Mort, yesterday dismissed recent speculation about the club being sold by Mike Ashley less than a year after he bought it. Mort described reports, including one about the Dubai International Capital (DIC) group, and one connecting Alan Shearer to a potential takeover, as "absolute rubbish", and Mort clearly sees the spreading of "so many false rumours" as a malicious act by an unnamed individual.

"The reality is that the Alan Shearer story on Sunday and the PCP story on Monday were both absolute rubbish," Mort said. "Alan has obviously denied he has been approached by a consortium and we'd never heard of PCP [alleged DIC facilitators] until Monday.

"It is not one journalist that has been writing these inaccurate stories. Who do you think has both connections with the media and is willing to go to the trouble, since shortly after our takeover last summer, to cause disruption to the club by spreading so many false rumours about a takeover?"

Scrutiny of Ashley has been intense since he acquired Sir John Hall's stake in the club last May. That eventually led to a complete takeover by Ashley, but his motivation for buying the club is questioned by many and since sacking manager Sam Allardyce last month and replacing him with Kevin Keegan, Newcastle have been under even greater focus. They are yet to win under Keegan and go into tomorrow's home match against Manchester United six points off the relegation zone.

"We appreciate it will take time for Kevin to turn things around," Mort said. "He has a three and a half year contract and we are looking to see what can be achieved over that period. He has already got the team playing more football and I am comfortable that the results will follow once we get that first win."

Under Ashley, Allardyce spent a net £12m last summer and a sign of Ashley's commitment will be gauged by what Keegan is allowed to spend once this season ends. "The club will be better prepared as we have a manager and scouting team with several months to consider both where we need strengthening and who we might bring in," Mort added.