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Horncastle: Title race wide open

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By ESPN Staff
Sep 28, 2008

Former Toon owner Hall has sympathy for Ashley

Former Newcastle owner Sir John Hall has admitted he feels sorry for his beleaguered successor Mike Ashley, and fears the possibility of big-money foreign investors buying the club.

Hall insists Ashley, who has become a target of some abuse from fans since Kevin Keegan's departure from the club, arrived on Tyneside with the best of intentions.

But with Ashley now looking to sell the club - with a clutch of overseas consortia reportedly vying to purchase it - Hall is increasingly concerned about the influx of big-money buyers with little or no emotional attachment to the game.

"When I met Mike Ashley and his advisors they had the best intentions for the club," Hall told Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme.

"He wanted to stay there and develop it so I feel sad for him and sad for the club.

"When he bought the shares I had lots of talks with him and his team. He was coming in to build for the long run and he is a football fan.

"Newcastle was a brand to him and he wanted to use it to market his business abroad - he had a long term vision.

"He's a good businessman but a novice in the game, as I was when I first came into the game."

Reflecting on the possibility of Newcastle joining the ranks of foreign-owned clubs, he said: "(Chelsea owner) Roman Abramovich changed the game for ever. There's nobody in Britain wealthy enough who'd be interested in investing. Even Mike Ashley was struggling and £200million is a lot of money.

"No way can the rest of the clubs compete. The debate at Newcastle will be - should they try and compete with the super-rich?

"It's affecting the game...can anyone compete? I think they are fools if they try.

"The Premier League clubs are being bought as toys, they'll have them for a few years then throw them away, that's my view.

"These people don't know the passion of the fans. The Premier League is a tremendous brand but I fear for the game and for the fans."

On the field, Newcastle have at least appointed an interim manager to assist coach Chris Hughton in preparing the squad, although matters went from bad to worse with a 2-1 home defeat to Blackburn yesterday.

Joe Kinnear, out of the game for nearly four years, was not an obvious choice, but Terry Venables, who turned the role down last week, has defended him.

"They were very quick and they dealt with it," Venables told Sportsweek. "Joe has been around the game for a long time. He might not be known by some of the players but the people at the club and in the game know he is a fighter who will give his best.

"They can climb the table but the boys have to get it done. It's easy to say but actions are louder than words."

Kinnear had hinted that Newcastle legend Alan Shearer would be brought into the club by the new owners, to work alongside Keegan.

However the former England captain told BBC's Match of the Day last night: "There is no truth in that whatsoever. I don't know where that has come from at all."

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