Smith Newcastle owner Ashley's favourite player

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley appears to already have a favourite Toon player - Alan Smith.

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Ashley wore a Newcastle shirt for his first appearance at a Premiership game since taking over the club and had the No17 and Smith printed on his back.

Why Smith? No one from Newcastle seemed quite sure, but like the father who buys his son an expensive train set for Christmas only to play with it himself, having funded the takeover, Ashley can choose whichever shirt he likes.

And clearly as the sportswear tycoon splashed out £6m of his own money to sign the England international from Manchester United, he rather likes Alan Smith.

"It was great to see him," said Toon boss Sam Allardyce after yesterday's 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough. "And he certainly hasn't tried to hide away with that shirt on, has he?"

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