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May 31, 2009

Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale once again

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has put the club back on the market and is desperate for a sale as soon as possible.

It is thought Ashley is ready to accept £100m for the club, which will be a huge loss on his outlay since buying the club less than two years ago.

Despite Newcastle's stature, he may still find it difficult to find a buyer at that price in the current market. For instance, Sheffield Wednesday can be purchased for £30m which also wipes out all their debts. With Newcastle costing more than three times that, complete with a playing staff on Premier League wages, it looks a hard sell for a Championship club.

He told the Sunday Times: "It has been catastrophic for everybody. I've lost my money and I've made terrible decisions. Now I want to sell it as soon as I can ... advisers will be appointed shortly.''

Ashley had sought a buyer last year, following supporters' angry criticism after Kevin Keegan's departure from the club. Seven different consortia were provided with prospectuses outlining details of the club's financial standing, with groups from Nigeria and South Africa having been linked with buy-out bids. No deal was forthcoming.

"Of course I regret it,'' he said. "I never said I was an expert in football clubs. I was just a fan - although a very wealthy fan. But I'm not so wealthy now.

"I put my money into it and I tried my best. But I accept my best was woefully short. I am genuinely sorry for everybody about what has happened.''

When he originally put the club up for sale in September 2008, Ashley released a 1,600-word statement in which he revealed the price of his investment.

"Newcastle's best asset has been, is and always will be the fans,'' he said. "But like any business with assets, the club has debts.

"I paid £134m out of my own pocket for the club. I then poured another £110m into the club, not to pay off the debt, but just to reduce it.''

Winger Damien Duff admits some of his team-mates at St James' Park did not care if the club got relegated.

"There will obviously be a massive clear-out, there are budgets in the Championship and also I'm sure the gaffer knows who cares about the club and who stays, who's going work to get out of the Championship,'' Duff said. "He knows that already.

"There is only one man to get us back up and that is Alan Shearer. I'm sure it'll be him and I'm sure he'll take the job.''

With Duff admitting Newcastle will have to take budgets into consideration, his situation could become uncertain as he is a high earner - but he is adamant he wants to stay.

"From a Newcastle point of view, the aim is to come straight back up,'' the 30-year-old said. "They belong in the Premier League so it is just one season in the Championship hopefully.

"I haven't really looked into it but I've done two years in the Championship before with Blackburn. Why not?''

Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has hinted that a stint in the second tier of English football would not harm Duff's international hopes.

Trapattoni said: "He is a great player and the great players are great players, in Ireland, in Newcastle, yesterday or tomorrow.''

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