KEVIN Keegan’s attempt to extract £10m in compensation from Newcastle United began yesterday at a special Premier League tribunal hearing.
Although the case is expected to last for several more days as witnesses, including former executive director (football) Dennis Wise, managing director Derek Llambias and head of recruitment Tony Jimenez contest Keegan’s claim for constructive dismissal, takeover negotiations are continuing.
According to sources close to the deal, the hearing and the possibility of a multi-million-pound pay-out is one of the last remaining barriers in the completion of Barry Moat’s attempted takeover.
Once that significant financial problem is out of the way, it is claimed rapid progress could be made, particularly if Mike Ashley’s regime is successful with its counter claim against Keegan (pictured right) for breach of contract when he quit in such controversial circumstances just over 12 months ago. However, given the number of false dawns there have been this summer, and the succession of final deadlines which have been set and then broken by Ashley, few supporters will be getting excited until something concrete actually happens.
In the meantime, neither are Newcastle’s players, even though Moat’s success will lead to the immediate appointment of Alan Shearer as manager.
That is not a disagreeable turn of events, but for now Kevin Nolan has urged Ashley to give Chris Hughton the financial backing he needs to capitalise on the Magpies’ excellent start to the season.
Although United made it five wins out of five with a narrow 1-0 win at Cardiff City on Sunday and extended their unbeaten run under Hughton to six games, Nolan fears the lack of experienced cover in the first-team squad.
Newcastle are already weakened by injuries to Shola Ameobi, Andy Carroll and Jonás Gutiérrez and, with Alan Smith
suspended against Blackpool tomorrow night, Nolan knows there are major problems ahead if the squad is not strengthened with loan signings.
Hughton has been told there is money available for him to make temporary signings and Newcastle have been linked with a number of players recently.
But Nolan, immense in the centre of midfield so far this season, wants to see new faces on the training ground rather than speculation in the media.
“Chris has managed to keep a group of players together, albeit we need more people coming in,” he said, as United’s players prepare to face another sell-out crowd at Bloomfield Road.
“We know that and the board has got to start backing him. Chris has been asking for that for six or seven weeks, and we’ve been asking as well.
“He needs to be given the resources he requires to get us back to where we belong as quickly as possible. That is what is needed.”
Like everyone at St James’s Park, Nolan has been impressed with the way Hughton has picked up the pieces after relegation and shaped a side which is more than capable of holding its own in the Championship.
Nevertheless, he would like to see him given the financial support he deserves, even though the United board are going to be distracted by the Keegan tribunal this week.
Nolan is unwilling to become embroiled in anything so political. All he and the players want is the best possible chance of making an immediate return to the top flight following the humiliation of relegation.
He added: “This club shouldn’t be in this league, but it is and Chris is doing a fantastic job trying to get us out of it. I’ve got nothing but admiration for him.
“What happens upstairs has got nothing to do with us, all we ask is that they give Chris a bit of support because he deserves that at this moment in time.
“Takeovers can happen or they can’t, Chris and Colin (Calderwood) need that support and so do the players.
“Chris deserves that as credit for the way he has started the season, although we’re not getting carried away by that.”
United will almost certainly be forced to play Nile Ranger as a loan centre-forward against Blackpool as Andy Carroll is making a slow recovery from a groin strain.
Peter Løvenkrands is getting stronger, but he is still not in a condition to play a full 90 minutes and Hughton has had some success with a five-man midfield. Nicky Butt can come into the side in place of the suspended Smith.