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`Toon Army' left to curse and cry

Alan Wardle listens to the supporters' reaction to Andy Cole's sudden e xit
Displeasure at the decision of Kevin Keegan to sell Andy Cole was certainly not as unanimous as might be expected.

Cole's recent failure to score as regularly as he did before a shin injury had put doubts in some minds about his value to the side. After his recent criticism of racists on Tyneside, some were not totally surprised to see him go.

Tony Garrety, a Supporters' Association member, said: "All the fans agree that Cole should not have gone. He was an idol here. It's like the days of the former chairman, Gordon McKeag, when we were a selling club. What happens if somebody comes in and offers £5m for Robert Lee?" However, Garrety did not speak for everyone, as supporters divided into three camps.

A minority believed Keegan had struck a good deal by selling a player for such a huge fee less than two years after paying £1.7m for him. Some deferred judgement until they discovered how Keegan planned to spend the money. Only a big-name signing will placate them.

The rest - the majority - were furious at what they see as a betrayal of fans paying up to £20 for tickets and asked to invest £500 in bonds. Virtually all the season-ticket holders who gathered in the rain outside St James' Park were in the latter, disillusioned group.

Shaun King, from Birtley, took the afternoon off from his job as a delivery driver. "I just wanted to find out what's happening," he said. "I feel like we've been stabbed in the back by the club.

"It's diabolical. I just don't know what is happening here any more."

Labourer Derek Johnson, another season-ticket holder said:"It's a damn disgrace. This is a throwback to the old days. Sunderland will be laughing at us. Will 34,000 fans all back Keegan on Sunday? I don't think so."

Nigel Robinson, a solicitor from Jesmond, has seen it all before after years of watching Newcastle. Nothing surprises me about football any more," he said. "This just goes to show that it's all about money nowadays."