Early Doors

Not for sale

Early Doors

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has taken the club off the market.

For those of you that had forgotten, Ashley had been trying to sell the club after pumping a significant part of his fortune into it yielded only relegation from the Premier League and bile from the Magpies' fans.

Last season, Newcastle's demise was the gift that just kept on giving for sneering, faceless morning football blogs, and stories like those of a shadowy Nigerian consortium trying to buy the club in exchange for a suitcase full of Rolexes didn't help matters much.

However, after talks to sell the club to local businessman Barry Moat broke down over a trifling £20m discrepancy in valuations between the two parties, Ashley has taken the club off the market and given caretaker boss Chris Hughton the manager's job full-time.

One newspaper this morning has speculated that Ashley has 'rekindled his love affair with the club'. However, what's far more likely is that, with Hughton guiding Newcastle to the top of the Championship, Ashley realises that the club is a much more saleable asset back in the Premier League next season.

Newcastle fans have been denied another underwhelming return to St James' Park from Alan Shearer now that the club is not changing hands.

Shearer had reportedly been in line for a return to the club if Moat had completed his planned £80m takeover.

Former England captain Shearer knew he was walking into a no-lose situation at the end of last season when he took charge of a Toon side in free-fall with eight games remaining. Despite winning just one and losing five of those matches, he managed to keep his credibility intact as he ran back, right arm aloft, to the safety of the pundits' sofa.

Shearer admitted he was keen to jump back into the hot seat and piggy-back on all Hughton's good work, but the caretaker boss has now got his just reward by being given his first full-time position on Tyneside.

Hughton's record of eight wins from 14 games has put Newcastle top of the Championship, and Ashley will be giving him £20m to spend in January.

Hughton may have virtually no experience in player recruitment but, let's face it, he can't be worse than Dennis Wise.

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Alberto Aquilani will be grateful that the pressure is off him a little as he prepares for his Liverpool debut this evening at the Emirates in the Carling Cup.

Had Liverpool lost their match in a row on Sunday against Manchester United, his belated arrival would have been make or break for Rafael Benitez. As it is, Liverpool won and so everything is hunky dory now.

Of course, that doesn't mean that the Italian won't be under the microscope, perhaps more so because he will be facing Aaron Ramsey and the rest of Arsene Wenger's Get Along Gang.

A Champions League veteran will be expected to make his impact in a fixture which both bosses use to stop deep vein thrombosis setting in among the deeper reaches of their squads.

With what could be a tough trip to Fulham at the weekend and a visit to Lyon that could effectively end their Champions League campaign coming in the next seven days, it's even more imperative that Aquilani's second-half cameo goes off without a hitch. No pressure then son.

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Last night's Carling Cup match between Barnsley and Manchester United was marred by eight fans being arrested following the match, but there was trouble before the match had even ended.

United goalkeeper Ben Foster was prevented from taking a late goal kick by two pitch invaders. Unfortunately, any moral high ground was lost when Foster tried unsuccessfully to tackle one of the goons, who got the biggest cheer of the night when he banged the ball into the net.

Sky, less than a fortnight after they repeatedly showed the face of the Liverpool fan who punched that beach ball on to the pitch against Sunderland, continued their good work by keeping footage of the two Oakwell clowns in their match report throughout the night, giving two more hooligans a chance to record and keep their moment of glory. Well done guys.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Harry (Redknapp)'s had a big clampdown. Until we went out last week, we hadn't had a night out since I arrived. I was well disappointed - I moved to a London club and didn't even get to go out. Not even for a bit of karaoke" - Spurs striker Peter Crouch must be so grateful to the opportunist who snapped him and team-mate Jonathan Woodgate on the dance floor of some trendy night spot or other.

FOREIGN VIEW: "The excellence of the ridiculous" - Marca's rather poetic take on Real Madrid's humiliating 4-0 defeat at suburban minnows Alcorcon in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie. Madrid put out a side that featured Raul, Guti, Benzema and van der Vaart.

COMING UP: Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be any more Carling Cup-based excitement this week, there's a further triple-whammy of last 16 action tonight. Follow LIVE commentary of Arsenal v Liverpool, Chelsea v Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City v Scunthorpe United.

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