Saturday, June 16, 2007

Clean sheets or dirty laundry?

As was expected, Lord Stevens' final report following his inquiry into transfer activities, published today, makes uncomfortable reading for Newcastle fans.

Not only are the transfers of four players to Newcastle (Emre, Albert Luque, Jean-Alain Boumsong and Amady Faye) described as "uncleared", but there are reported to have been "inconsistencies in evidence" given by the man responsible for bringing them to Tyneside, Graeme Souness, as well as by Fat Fred's son Kenneth, "apparently acting in an undefined role but not as a Club official". What's more, Fat Sam is the other manager fingered in the report for goings-on at Bolton, for whom four transfers have also been classified as "uncleared".

Elsewhere, there are raps over the knuckles for agents Pini Zahivi (accused of having "failed to co-operate fully with the Inquiry"), Peter Harrison (who in the 'Panorama' programme boasted of having close ties to Fat Fred and the Newcastle hierarchy) and our old friend Willie McKay, who is described as having shown only "a degree of co-operation".

Unsurprisingly, the club has chosen to read very much between the lines and dwell on the paragraph which reads "we have found no evidence to suggest any irregular payments by or to Club officials relating to the above transfers [Emre, Boumsong and Faye] and Newcastle United officials co-operated fully with the Inquiry and gave full access to documentation (including bank statements) as requested", and claimed that we've come out of it smelling of roses.

No amount of whitewash can convince me of that, I'm afraid. As with 'Panorama', there remains no incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing, but something still smells fishy and the suspicions persist - not least because of the inconsistent testimonies and reluctance of some of those named to co-operate.

All this on a day when it was announced that Mike Ashley has increased his stake in the club to 77.06% - rather than looking towards a Fat-Fred-less future with optimism and relief, we're having to face up to the fact that there could well be more turbulent times ahead.


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