London, Sep 6 : Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has conceded to close friends that he fears he will be unable to return to the stadium, and will not mingle with supporters again due to the backlash among fans caused by the resignation of Kevin Keegan.
The sports retail tycoon has been the subject of angry demonstrations outside St James' Park following the departure of Keegan, who lost a bitter power battle with director of football Dennis Wise over the club's transfer policy and the attempts to sell Michael Owen to Tottenham on transfer deadline day.
Ashley refused to return from New York for crisis talks between his directors and Keegan in Manchester this week, leaving his reputation among Newcastle supporters in tatters.
Frank Gilmour, chairman of the Independent Newcastle United Supporters' Association, said: "What he's created here has made his position untenable. Like a lot of other fans who have vented their fury, I'd be happy if I heard he'd put the club up for sale."
Ashley now intends to drift into the background, but City insiders insist that he does not intend to sell a club he bought last summer, The Telegraph reported.
One source said: "Mike Ashley was offering a minority stake, but someone tested the waters recently and was told that he was not a seller, which was the first time things had turned around. Anyway, I'd be surprised if anyone went anywhere near it."
Wise has been cast as the villain, but he has told friends he was simply doing the job he was hired for, and that though he had no problems with Keegan, he remained unsympathetic to his former colleague's dislike of the management structure.
That continental-type arrangement has prompted Alan Shearer, the former Newcastle and England captain, to indicate that he would not be willing to succeed Keegan.