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Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Sunday, 28 December 2008

Ashley calls off Newcastle sale

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley
Ashley is now looking to build Newcastle back up again

Newcastle United are no longer up for sale, club owner Mike Ashley announced on Sunday.

Ashley has taken the Magpies off the market and insists he is now "committing to the club as its owner".

He put the Tyneside club up for sale in September after a backlash from fans upset at the exit of boss Kevin Keegan.

"I am happy to end the uncertainty fans may have had about the [club's] future direction," he said. "I know just how important that is to you."

After failing to find a buyer in the past three months despite what the club claim to be "considerable interest", the billionaire sportswear magnate has decided to push ahead with his own plans.

"For me 2009 will be the year in which we drive the club forward together," he said in a statement to fans, published in the match programme for Sunday's clash with Liverpool.

"Even when I haven't been at games I have remained a keen supporter, kicking and heading every ball and cheering the team on TV and being first to congratulate Joe Kinnear whenever there's a good result.

"When I took the decision to put the club up for sale in September I made a point of saying two things were very important.

"Firstly, any potential buyer would have to show they had the best interests of Newcastle United at heart and had both the commitment and finance to be worthy custodians of such a fine football club before I would even consider doing a deal.

NEWCASTLE 'FOR SALE' TIMELINE
4 Sep : Fans revolt as manager Kevin Keegan steps down
14 Sep : Emotional Ashley reacts by putting club up for sale
26 Sep : Joe Kinnear brought in as interim manager until October
4 Nov : Two "very serious contenders" show interest in club
28 Nov : Kinnear confirmed as manager until end of the season
28 Dec : Ashley announces he will now not sell Newcastle

"And secondly, I gave you my word that as long as I remain owner, this club would continue to be run responsibly at all levels. I hope you will accept that I have stood by that pledge."

Supporters were divided in their initial response to the news - but former Newcastle player and coach Peter Beardsley has urged fans to forgive and forget.

"He came here with the right intentions and now with the transfer window about to open, hopefully it is good news for us," he said.

"He never wanted to leave this club. He always wanted to be here, he wants to be back among the fans and hopefully he will get the chance to do that now.

"I hope the fans react in the right way. We are a big club and we need a big owner, and he is certainly that.

"When you look at all the foreign owners - and there are some good ones, don't get me wrong - we have an English owner and that's a great thing.

"We can go forward now in a positive vein."

606: DEBATE

Ashley engaged the services of investment bank Seymour Pierce after deciding to end his ownership at St James' Park following mass protests against his regime in the wake of Keegan's departure.

But, according to Newcastle's official website, he is now set to "allow the club to continue to progress under the new management team led by Joe Kinnear".

Ashley launched a £134.4m takeover of the club in May last year and has since invested around a further £100m in servicing the club's debt and attempting to strengthen the playing squad.

The Magpies currently lie 13th in the Premier League, having recently hauled themselves out of the relegation zone.

Kinnear hopes for cash boost

But a Boxing Day defeat to Wigan and a 5-1 demolition by Liverpool at St James' Park on Sunday led manager Kinnear to plead for more funds to strengthen his injury-hit squad.

In describing Ashley's announcement as a positive, Kinnear told BBC Sport: "Mike is still very passionate about the club, he still wants to go forward.

"It's given everyone here confidence to know there's a good possibility that he will invest more money into the club.

"I'm not saying he will, but there's a possibility that he will. Hopefully he does and we can get more players in to stiffen the squad."



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see also
Newcastle 1-5 Liverpool
28 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Newcastle sale 'progressing well'
13 Oct 08 |  Newcastle
Harris hopeful over Everton sale
14 Oct 08 |  Everton
Newcastle extend bidder deadline
07 Oct 08 |  Newcastle
Allardyce criticises Ashley reign
07 Oct 08 |  Newcastle
Francis offered Magpies position
05 Oct 08 |  Newcastle
Businessmen deny Newcastle links
03 Oct 08 |  Newcastle
Kinnear fury at 'scandalous lies'
03 Oct 08 |  Newcastle
Kinnear starts work at Newcastle
30 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Ashley cuts Newcastle price tag
30 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Shearer dismisses Magpies rumours
28 Sep 08 |  Match of the Day
Nigerians prepare Newcastle offer
26 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Magpies name Kinnear interim boss
26 Sep 08 |  Newcastle
Ashley tells bank to sell Magpies
22 Sep 08 |  Newcastle


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