Newcastle still paying Manchester United signing Michael Owen

Owen, 29, who cost the Magpies £37million in transfer fee and wages, is entitled under severance rules to have any shortfall in his wages made up for four weeks.

And, having taken a pay cut in his basic wage from £105,000-a-week to £50,000, he is entitled to £220,000 from the cash-strapped Toon.

Under Premier and Football League rules, Owen is entitled to have the shortfall between his £105,000-a-week Newcastle wages and his £50,000 Old Trafford basic made up for a month.

And with freed Australian striker Mark Viduka, Brazilian defender Cacapa and Danish forward Peter Lovenkrands also due severance pay-outs, the new owners of Newcastle could face an £800,000-plus bill.

It is yet another kick in the teeth for a club that has endured one of the most ignominious close-seasons in history since their last-day relegation to the Championship in May.

Newcastle arrived at Dublin's Tallaght Stadium yesterday for a friendly with Shamrock Rovers in a state of total disarray with Geordie legend Alan Shearer still no nearer being appointed permanent manager, while former chairman Freddy Shepherd still waits in the wings with his takeover bid.

But there are worrying signs for the Toon top brass that both supporters and players are running out of patience with the lack of any action at St James' Park this summer.

Not only have Newcastle failed to find a new owner in the six weeks since Mike Ashley (right) put the club up for sale, but they played their first game of the season without a permanent manager and no sign of a new club captain being appointed to replace the departed Owen. Newcastle took on Rovers yesterday with Chris Hughton again in temporary charge of team matters and football secretary Lee Charnley running the show off the field.

And they were also without any senior media representation following the departure of chief press officer Gary Oliver this summer.

A club insider said: "Newcastle is like an empty shell at the moment. There seems to be no-one in charge.

"It is hard for people to get motivated when the club is in a state of limbo.

"The big-earners know they are going to be sold and haven't got a lot of incentive.

"The season ticket sales are alarmingly low and attendances next season will be the lowest since the ground was expanded in 2000. Nothing can happen until a new owner is found and morale is now rock-bottom among players and fans."

Ashley made slashing Newcastle's unsustainable £74million wage bill a major priority after relegation at Villa Park in May, but so far has failed to raise even a penny on transfer fees.

And the club's finances have been further damaged by the Toon Army's reluctance to buy season tickets because of the uncertainty over the club's future.

The local evening newspaper claims that a readers poll shows that 52 per cent of fans have yet to renew season tickets, which would indicate that less than 20,000 have bothered to renew.

Managing director Derek Llambias has claimed that there have been"more than two bids at £100million", while the Singapore-based Profitable Group claim to have made an offer.

But it seems certain that disillusioned Toon Army fans will continue to boycott the club until the highlyunpopular Ashley is finally bought out.

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