Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Auf Wiedersehen pets

The Mike Ashley era moved closer today with the resignations of four of the club's five directors: Douglas Hall, his sister Allison Antonopoulos, Fat Fred's brother Bruce and Timothy Revill. The only one clinging on to the last vestiges of power is Fat Fred himself, though some reports have it that Ashley rejected his resignation and wants him to stay put. To which we say: c'mon Mike, let's clear them all out and start afresh.

The quartet follow Alan O'Brien out the door, the Republic of Ireland international winger having signed for Hibernian yesterday. Though his contract expires at the end of the month, we will be due some compensation as he is under 23. It's an interesting move, given that neither of O'Brien's competitors for the left wing berth - compatriot Damien Duff and Charles N'Zogbia - performed well last year and neither have secure futures on Tyneside; had he stuck around, he could have found himself in the side, and we could have found ourselves another O'Brien to celebrate for putting the ball in the Mackems' net. Presumably, though, the feeling was that he just isn't good enough to make the grade - and at least with a move to Scotland he can't come back to bite us in the arse very easily.

Emre, on the other hand, has insisted he's staying put, committing his future to the club and implying in the process that the change of management is responsible for the decision: "I'm happy in England and I'm not thinking about leaving Newcastle. I have received serious offers from Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, but I have great respect for Sam Allardyce, and I want to continue my career in England."

Meanwhile, the signing of David Rozehnal now looks to be a matter of dotting the i's and crossing the t's. That will mean we will have successfully fended off a strong rival bid from Borussia Dortmund, but stranger things have happened at the eleventh hour... We've also been linked with moves for Reading's Nicky Shorey, who is currently in contract negotiations with his club, and Dutch U21 striker Maceo Rigters - though intimations of our interest in the latter have only come from the player's agent. Ghanaian midfielder Lareya Kingston, a new signing for Hearts having played on loan for them last season, has claimed that we were competing with Fat Sam's old club Bolton to hijack the move, and another player uninterested in a move to Tyneside is the only French striker close to rivalling Nicolas Anelka in the sulkiness stakes, Frederic Kanoute, who appears set on staying with UEFA Cup holders Sevilla.

Amidst the inevitable paper talk about Michael Owen being the man Arsene Wenger has earmarked to fill Thierry Henry's boots (talk fuelled by Sky pundit Alan Smith blathering on about how Mickey would suit Arsenal's system) you may have missed the fact that we look set to receive compensation from FIFA and the FA for the injury that kept him out for nearly the entire season and for the cost of treatment and wages. There's some dispute over the precise figures, though - the Chronicle lending credence to the rumours of £10m whereas the Times have suggested much, much less.

And finally, here at Black & White & Read All Over we're not generally in the habit of gushing about opposition players - we're not often in the habit of gushing about our own. But it has to be said that Henry's departure for sunnier Spanish climes is a huge loss to the Premiership - he is without exaggeration the best forward I've ever seen, an incredible talent in the way he creates goals as well as scoring for fun. I guess now the Gunners will have to find someone else to fill their boots against us...


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