Newcastle United’s season began with a defeat to the Premier League champions Manchester City and fresh doubts over Mike Ashley’s long-term plans for the club.
It has emerged that Ashley is set to increase his share in Rangers by underwriting a £4million share issue, which could mean him owning as much as 20 per cent of the troubled Scottish outfit.
Owning two clubs is allowed under Fifa rules, but not if they are in the same competition.
Rangers are currently in the second tier of Scottish football following their liquidation of two years ago, but it is far from inconceivable that in the not too distant future they will be back in Europe.
Critics of the Ashley regime will hope this development signals that the 49-year-old billionaire is ready to sell Newcastle in order to be the complete owner of Rangers.
Indeed, if he was to completely take over Rangers, selling Newcastle could become a priority for the deal to go through.
To onfield matters and while Newcastle were defeated 2-0 at St James’ Park, manager Alan Pardew saw plenty of room for optimism following what was a spirited display.
A lack of cutting edge was obvious. However, Remy Cabella and Jack Colback played well on debut and there was a lot of things to enjoy from the performance.
Pardew said: “A lot of things bode well for the other 37 games coming up. I thought the new guys were all solid. I thought a couple of them were outstanding in Jack and Remy, in different ways really.
“Jack’s energy, power and competence with the ball, and Remy’s feet and ideas, which didn’t all come off.
“But you know he’s going to try something, he’s going to make a moment and when he has a hot day and he’s going to punish teams.
“Cabella is a little bit like (Samir) Nasri and (David) Silva for City. He has that quality on the corners of the boxes to take that extra second, that extra moment to make the pass. I was really pleased with him. I thought he might struggle against the champions, but he coped quite well and that was really pleasing.”
Pardew was encouraged by the way his team responded to going a goal down before half-time.
And while there was not a single shot on target, Newcastle did create a lot of chances against arguably the best team in the country.
Pardew said: “We were playing the champions and sometimes you don’t get any shots against the champions. We were without Siem de Jong and Cheick Tiote, who I think will make a big difference to us. I thought we had really a good go, I thought the young players who came on will have learned.
“I’m really buoyed actually, by a lot of what went on. I thought the crowd were great, we responded to that and hopefully when we come here against Crystal Palace, we’ll have some points on the board and we can get ourselves a home win which will be important for us.”
One thing Newcastle did show was a togetherness which was absent in the second half of the previous campaign.
Pardew said: “That is always important. We had a difficult time at the back end of last season, but a lot of Premiership sides did and it’s important to put things in perspective, which I think we have.
“We’ve signed some good players and now it’s a question of getting results that give us a confidence to grow.
“Results give you confidence. We’ll have got a certain confidence from this, but it’s good to get wins, especially with new players.
“That’s what we’re looking at the next game, we’re looking to win it.
“I don’t think it’s a setback. I honesty think we’ve come up against individuals we’re not going to see every week.
“Some of their play is outstanding and you only have to see it close up to know the quality of Samir Nasri, David Silva, and the power of Yaya Toure.
“I thought we coped with it as well as we could have. When you play the top teams you need a break, there’s no doubt about that.
“Whenever I’ve won against the top sides, you get a break in the game. It didn’t happen for us today, we didn’t get a ricochet or anything that fell our way, but I’m kind of as pleased as I can be with a 2-0 defeat.”