Takeover talk disturbs Newcastle's build-up

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The Independent Football

Shares had risen 18 per cent on Monday after Sir John Hall, the life president, revealed a mystery buyer had made an offer for his 28.5 per cent stake in the club. Yesterday they gained a further 16 per cent after Simon Sporborg, an external spokesman for the club, said: "Negotiations are going on. Sir John Hall will notify the board as and when he's ready."

The club's value has now gone from £65m when trading opened on Monday morning to £88.8m. It is a fortuitous event for the club chairman Freddy Shepherd, who bought 250,000 shares this month to raise his holding to 26.7 per cent. He has made, on paper, nearly £50,000 in two days.

The share surge came despite three candidates ruling themselves out of any attempted takeover. Graham Wylie, a software and horse racing multimillionaire, was widely tipped as a potential purchaser but he said: "It's rubbish - I'm not interested." Barry Moat, chief executive of Premier Direct plc, has also ruled himself out, as has the former Newcastle defender Ray Ranson, who previously led a consortium which tried unsuccessfully to buy Aston Villa.

While the City speculated, the team headed for Galicia and a testing match against one of Spain's stronger teams, albeit one in decline and suffering transfer distractions themselves, notably Liverpool's reported pursuit of Jorge Andrade. Both the manager Graeme Souness and Alan Shearer, the captain, said the takeover speculation would not affect the team, with the latter noting: "It's hardly a distraction for the players. They just get paid to play."

Souness's biggest problem is raising a decent side, after Jermaine Jenas suffered a recurrence of a hamstring strain during Saturday's second-round win over Dubnica and Michael Chopra had to be substituted with concussion. Chopra has travelled to Spain as the only other available partner for Shearer, but Kieron Dyer, Shola Ameobi, Titus Bramble, Emre and Scott Parker have been left on Tyneside.

Souness said: "This is a tougher test and we are missing important players. We are an inexperienced side but, hopefully, we can go there and give a good account of ourselves. Deportivo are a very good team. With the likes of Luque and Tristan, they have plenty of threats."

Deportivo are not the force they were, with the long-term coach Javier Irureta departed and several key players ageing. But Newcastle have also struggled recently. It is why both teams are in the Intertoto.