We have truly entered the digital age. It has been public knowledge for some time that Mike Ashley has been looking to flog Newcastle United to the first party dim enough to part with a spare £100 million. And we knew he was desperate—we just didn't know precisely how desperate.
A statement on the club's official website today read:
"The Board of Newcastle United can today confirm that the Club is for sale at the price of £100 million. Interested parties should contact Newcastle United at email@example.com (or Keith Harris at Seymour Pierce) for further details."
So great is Newcastle's staunch commitment to comic farce, it cannot be too long before they are sued over image rights by Jongleurs Comedy Clubs. With the best will in the world, this is can hardly be the best way to go about selling a football club. It simply reeks of the rank amateurism the club has cultivated under Ashley.
When the former billionaire bought Newcastle from Shepherd in 2007, he surely did not expect to be flogging the club on footballclubs4u.com just two years later. But Newcastle are no ordinary team. For a lengthy period, they jostled with the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham for the title of The Country's Most Ridiculous Club (awarded by Peter Ridsdale). Their special brand of incompetence has blown all competition out of the water.
With that in mind, just who will pay the £100m Ashley wants before he will sell up? In a recession, few will be putting the acquisition of a Championship club on the top of their shopping lists. Under the "Cockney Mafia," fans watched through their fingers as six different managers in two years have come in, Dennis Wise was recruited and then jettisoned, and terrible player after terrible player was signed.
Relegation only shocked due to the size of the club. A spell in The Championship could financially cripple Newcastle. Following Leeds United, another club with aspirations beyond their means, into the third tier may not be beyond the realms of reality. Newcastle have mediocre footballers tied down to long, expensive contracts with apparently no relegation clauses in place, a recipe for disaster.
Newcastle may want to shift the deadwood, but those deals could make it impossible. Many of their players would struggle to find similar wages elsewhere, even back in the Premier League. In that case, why leave? The likes of Alan Smith, Nicky Butt, and Fabricio Collocini have already proved that the well-being of Newcastle United is hardly a pressing engagement.
There were reports today that a consortium involving the former Liverpool midfielder Steve McMahon were logging on to their Hotmail accounts today. Another false dawn sounds more likely. The group did not possess the whiff of credibility.
Still, that has never been Ashley's selling point. Guzzling beer and wearing his replica shirt in the stands, the man did not even do due diligence on the club's books when he swept in, so his email request did not surprise. We must now eagerly await his next move. My advice would be to keep a keen eye on Ebay.