Newcastle United were days away from collapse before Mike Ashley's intervention, it has been revealed.

Chairman Chris Mort has revealed how deposed supremo Freddy Shepherd let debts of £75m build up to leave the Toon on the verge of meltdown before Ashley's rescue in May.

Mort said: "We were surprised at how bad the financial position was - they were in big trouble.

"If the old board had not refinanced the club by the end of the financial year on June 30, it would have folded like a pack of cards.

"They also spent sponsorship money before it had come in.

"All the cash from Northern Rock, which should have been paid annually, has already gone.

"Money was also borrowed against a deal with adidas.

"We prefer to invest as the cash comes in - not before."

But Mort added: "I'm not criticising the previous regime.

"Their heart was in the right place as they were doing what they could to bring success to the club but we are approaching things differently."

Shepherd pocketed £38m when he sold the club to Ashley.