Shearer set to be England No 2

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The Independent Online

Alan Shearer will be offered the job of becoming Steve McClaren's No 2 in charge of the England side when the former Middlesbrough manager takes charge at the start of next month - but that will not rule out Terry Venables having an involvement with the national team.

While no formal announcement is likely to be made until the end of England's World Cup campaign it is understood that a deal is already in place for Shearer. The 35-year-old is now a BBC television pundit after ending a glorious playing career with Newcastle United last season where he was overlooked for the vacant manager's job which went to Glenn Roeder.

Under the new regime, Shearer will fulfil the same role that McClaren currently performs under Sven Goran Eriksson. He will be on the bench next to McClaren and take training sessions. The second coach under consideration is Stuart Pearce, although the Manchester City manager is not sure that he can devote the time needed to do the job.

For Venables the door is still open. McClaren views him as a potential "sounding board" who would not necessarily be involved in the training sessions but could lend his considerable weight of experience to the team selection. The deal has to be right for Venables, who would probably regard it as his last job in football, but McClaren is understood to have the backing of the Football Association to employ him.

But while McClaren may have the support of the FA in that regard there is disquiet at the governing body that the news of Shearer's appointment has been leaked by McClaren in the middle of a World Cup finals. One source said last night that the FA found it remarkable that McClaren would bodge the announcement of his very first decision as England manager.

He was specifically asked, and these are understood to be the wishes of Eriksson, to keep any mention of the new regime out of the media until after the World Cup campaign had finished. While it is evident that McClaren is deeply concerned about the public ambivalence to his appointment, there is dismay that the news about Shearer has been leaked with quite such cynical timing.

England are less than four days from their first knock-out round match with Ecuador and already, it seems, McClaren is keen to get his dismal popularity ratings up ahead of his succession on 1 August.

Nothing has been finalised with Shearer or Venables but Brian Barwick, the FA's chief executive, will be meeting the pair after the World Cup.

Shearer, who won 63 caps and scored 30 goals for England, still has a huge standing among supporters and McClaren is clearly hoping that some of that popularity will rub off on him too.

As well as being a fans' favourite, Shearer will also have the respect of the players some of whom - including David Beckham, Michael Owen, Gary Neville, Frank Lampard and David James - he has played alongside for England.

With 206 goals for Newcastle and the leading scorer in the history of the Premiership, with 260, he also has a wealth of experience and has recently completed his Uefa A-licence coaching qualification.

Shearer, joint fifth in England's all-time goalscoring charts, retired from international football after Euro 2000. While he assisted Roeder at Newcastle after the sacking of Graeme Souness he has not any further experience as a coach. At the moment, it seems, it is his popularity that is most useful to McClaren.

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