Former Newcastle United hero John Anderson on why he's cautious on takeover speculation and Rafa Benitez's future
Former Newcastle United defender John Anderson believes that Magpies supporters are right to remain cautious as takeover talk continues to intensify on Tyneside.
Sunday night saw the release of a report in The Sun that Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan was close to completing a takeover and ending Mike Ashley’s tumultuous 12-year reign at the club.
Since the release of the article, speculation over Sheikh Khaled has dominated the headlines and there is a lack of certainty of where the bid stands at the moment.
Anderson – who made over 300 appearances for the Magpies during a ten-year stay at the club between 1982 and 1992 - still keeps a close eye on events at Gallowgate in his role as a pundit and co-commentator for BBC Newcastle and he insisted that United supporters could be forgiven for sending history is repeating itself when it comes to takeover talk.
He told the Gazette: “It always seems to happen at the same time of the year.
“These stories come about, people get really excited, but all of a sudden it goes quiet.
“I would always remain sceptical until the deal is actually done.
“We will wait and see, but if it is going to happen, it’s not a deal that will happen overnight.
“It’s going to take time and that means having to stay patient.
“We had Amanda Staveley, then Peter Kenyon, and there have been others, we always get let down.
“So, when this news broke, I didn’t get carried away, I didn’t get excited, and I understand why people get excited.
“The supporters want change; they want to see ambition and they want to see their club taken forward.
“Hopefully, this time it happens, but there are no guarantees, so it’s a case of remaining cautious.”
It is believed that Sheikh Khaled is not the only party interested in taking over at St James Park.
There has been further interest from the United States, Mexico and the Middle East as Magpies owner Ashley looks to sell the club after several failed attempts over the last decade.
The interest doesn’t surprise Anderson, who believes that the club could become something special in the right hands.
“I am amazed that people with money haven’t invested in Newcastle United,” explained the former Republic of Ireland international.
“It’s always amazed me because people know size of the club, they know the potential, and know what could happen if the right people were here and the adulation they would get.
“But then it’s always amazed me that Mike Ashley hasn’t seen that.
“I know he has put them on a sound footing, but if he saw the real potential, and went and spent money to try and be successful, he could have benefitted elsewhere.
“I have never really understood why he never saw that, but hopefully the club can find an owner that does realise how special a club Newcastle United can be.”
The takeover talk has provided a unwelcome distraction to the club’s contract talks with manager Rafa Benitez – who is believed to be seeking clarity on any potential new owners from the club.
The Spaniard is about the head into the last month of his three-year deal and has been in negotiations with Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley for almost a month.
Anderson believes that there is no guarantee that any new owner would want to keep the former Valencia and Liverpool manager in situ at St James Park.
And he stressed that the continued uncertainty could damage the club’s prospects of building on the progress they have made since returning to the Premier League two years ago.
“I suppose, if you’re a cynic, any potential owners might have told Mike Ashley that they don’t want the manager signing a new contract.
“They might want to bring their own man in.
“That is the cynical side of it.
“He is a world class manager and he has done a great job at the club, but different owners might see it differently.
“We don’t know what Benitez is thinking either, there could be a stand-off from both parties, because we don’t really know what’s happening.
“His contract has to be sorted by the end of June, because if it isn’t, and the club isn’t sold, all of a sudden you have no manager and players that need contracts sorted quickly.
“You look at Isaac Hayden, Jonjo Shelvey, Ayoze Perez, Mo Diame – their futures all need sorted, so players are being left dangling as well and it’s not healthy for the club."