Sad news is reaching Pies this afternoon that former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd, a central figure in the club’s bamboozling recent history, has passed away at the age of 76.
Of course, our thoughts immediately turned to the Geordie businessman’s long-running tit-for-tat spat with Michael Owen, who bore the brunt of several outbursts from the Shepherd foghorn.
It all began when Shepherd spent a then-club record £16.8million to purloin Owen from Real Madrid in August of 2005 only to see his marquee signing succumb to an almost instant succession of injuries that limited his impact at St James’ Park.
Two years of marginally unsatisfactory bang-for-buck later, Shepherd was further incensed when it was made public that Owen had a break clause in his contract that would see him able to join another club at the end of the 2006/07 season.
With Owen said to have been desperate to re-join former club Liverpool in the first place, inevitable reports that his head had been turned by murmurs of a £9million bid being cobbled together by the Reds began to circulate, with Shepherd publicly challenging the striker to “prove his loyalty” to the Toon.
Shepherd was then filmed being ‘interviewed’ in traffic by a couple of mischievous Scousers, who asked the Newcastle chairman if they could have Owen back.
Famously, the footage of Shepherd brashly proclaiming he’d happily “carry Owen back to Anfield himself” hit Youtube…
Owen lasted another two years at Newcastle before departing for Manchester United, but only after having his representatives, the Wasserman Media Group, draw up a glossy sales brochure that outlined all of his plus points – like a washing machine – and hand it out to interested parties.
In 2011, Shepherd took umbrage at Owen’s assertion that the classic Newcastle side of 2005-09 (Bramble, Ramage, Xisco, et al) was “poor”, lambasting the striker for siphoning away his money while offering precious little in return.
We might have been a poor team, but we made him a rich man. It works out at around £500,000 for every game in a Newcastle shirt. Poor? Well, he wasn’t poorer for it.
He spent more time ferrying between Cheshire and Tyneside in his £3.5million helicopter.
RIP Freddy, you big gasbag.