John Cleland is leading a South African group thought to be leading the race to buy out Mike Ashley, and they seem confident, but not arrogant, about being successful in buying the famous Newcastle United Football Club.
And today Cleland told the Chronicle he met with Kevin Keegan in Manchester on Monday night, as well as spending Tuesday in Newcastle and talking to supports in Shearer’s bar, without them knowing who he was.
Some reports claim that no official bid for Newcastle has yet been made by the group, but the Scotland-born South African maintains they made their offer to Seymour Pierce on Tuesday evening, which followed a full week of discussions with the bank, which is handling the sale for owner Mike Ashley.
John would not comment on the size of the bid but it is understood to be in the region of £300M, with £150M upfront and the remainder paid over 12 months. That new is unchanged from when the proposed deal broke the headlines on Wednesday.
The 46-year-old has talked about how impressed he has been with the passion of the Newcastle fans after making a trip to Tyneside and enjoying a drink in Shearer’s bar with Simon Clifford.
It looks like Clifford, who is just 37 years old, will be installed as Technical Director, but one thing we should make sure of is that Keegan and Clifford can work together – and are on the same page. The last thing we want is another Keegan Wise furor.
“I am a businessman who happens to be a supporter and the club and the fans deserve better and we are hoping to achieve that.”
“What we have to do is get the fans to come out and support the club in the coming games in the number and in particular to support the interim manager, who has such a challenge ahead of him.”
“I would say we are at least 80% confident of this working. We are cautiously optimistic but we are not arrogant.”
Cleland said he started pulling together his consortium after Mike Ashley made it clear he planned to sell the club because of the multiple and intense protests against the owner.
“My meeting with Kevin went very well. I am hugely impressed with him and I got the sense there was good chemistry between us and there is a strong mutual interest in working together.”
“He is our preferred option but we cannot make any concrete decisions on the managerial position until negotiations on our planned takeover are further advanced.”
“I think he understands and supports our concept of developing the club organically.”
Cleland said youth development is key to the long-term future of the club, which he why he plans to draft in Clifford, whose Brazilian soccer schools see youngsters coached from the age of six months.
But he maintained the manager brought in would still be given their backing in the transfer market.
“We will look at every strategy for making the club a success.” “One important thing is youth development and we feel that under Simon, who has a proven track record, we can create a great system.”
“We would make it very clear that there is a clear hierarchy in place and everybody would fully understand who is calling the shots and who isn’t.”
“We would not necessarily throw the baby out with the bath water but in any professional organization, you have to carry out a detailed review of the human capital to establish exactly who has the capabilities you want and who doesn’t.”
“It would be inappropriate to discuss which individuals would stay and which wouldn’t and even at a later stage it would be disrespectful to the brand to pass comment on people.”
That sounds good because it looks like the Youth strategy started by Chris Mort will be continuing but probably with some new scouts, and it looks 99% likely that Wise will walk.
Cleland visited Newcastle on Tuesday to look around the city and to chat with some, none of whom knew who he was.
“I did a lot of listening and observing of Newcastle citizens. We listened to conversations about the team and we were interested by what we heard. I was observing how the brand of Newcastle Untied interacts with its customers.”
“We spent a bit of time in Shearer’s bar, where we had a drink and a nice bite to eat.”
“I have been a great Keegan fan all of my life, right from being a teenager, when I supported Liverpool. Back in South Africa, I would see him with his perm scoring these magnificent goals and I became a big fan and followed his career to Newcastle.”
John seems confident of a deal and we think, from all we know, this would be a great deal for the club and the fans.
Let us know what you think in our new poll to the right.