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Hazard shines but Blues stumble

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Nigerian suitors face African rivals in Toon bid

The Nigerian consortium hoping to buy Newcastle United, and who are investigating the possibility of luring Kevin Keegan back to the club, could be facing competition in their takeover bid from as many as seven rivals.

Chris Nathaniel, chief executive of NVA Management, who is representing the consortium, confirmed that an official bid for the Magpies was tabled on Friday evening but insisted the group will not enter into a bidding war.

Interest in the club is understood to be growing and reports over the weekend suggest that a South African group is close to throwing their hat into the ring. Newcastle owner Mike Ashley instructed financial advisors Seymour Pierce to broker a £350 million sale for the club.

''As far as I know we are the only official bid to have been put in,'' said Nathaniel. ''I'm sure they will wait for other bids and make a decision on which one to accept.

''One thing is for sure, we will not get involved in a bidding war. We've earmarked money for transfers, money to buy the club and money to deal with the various deep-rooted issues behind the club like the academy. A budget has been put in place and my instructions are that they do not want to go over that budget.''

City observers have questioned the viability of the Nigerian consortium, expressing scepticism at the group's insistence that they will remain anonymous until their bid is accepted. But, Nathaniel insists they are serious and are working on a long-term strategy for the club.

''We put a bid in on Friday evening," said Nathaniel. "We are now looking at things around improving the football club in anticipation of hearing back from Newcastle positively. Therefore, the consortium have asked to look at areas of how we can improve the club while Newcastle are considering the bid.''

One area the consortium are paying close attention to is the manager's position. Kevin Keegan is top of their list of potential candidates, a move designed to placate legions of Newcastle fans seething at their hero's recent ousting.

Last Friday Newcastle appointed 61-year-old Joe Kinnear as interim manager, charging him with steadying the crisis-torn club until a sale can be agreed. Unfortunately news of Kinnear's arrival did not spark a revival as the club lost 3-1 away to West Ham United the following day.

Kinnear, who officially takes the helm on Monday, sat in the stands at Upton Park as he was serving the first of a two-match touchline ban incurred in the last days of his role as manager of Nottingham Forest in 2004, his last managerial job.

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