Alan Pardew set to become next Newcastle manager

Alan Pardew is expected to be confirmed as the new Newcastle manager within the next 24 hours.

The Magpies were today remaining tight-lipped over the identity of their primary target as talks progressed, but Press Association Sport understands the 49-year-old is the clear front-runner in a small field which has reduced in size since the search for Chris Hughton's replacement began in earnest.

Club owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias are close to concluding a deal and are confident the new man will be in place ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Liverpool at St James' Park.

He will be given time to implement the blueprint drawn up by the club's hierarchy after three and a half years of turmoil on Tyneside.

That may not involve sizeable transfer funds or lucrative wage packets to attract new recruits, but it will give him the opportunity to plan ahead, provided that he can remove the spectre of relegation from the horizon.

Former Reading, West Ham, Charlton and Southampton boss Pardew has been the bookmakers' favourite virtually from the off and Ladbrokes were this afternoon quoting him as a 1/9 shot with William Hill going even stronger at 1/12.

He is not the only serious option to have been considered since Hughton's departure on Monday, but with the likes of Alan Curbishley, Martin O'Neill and Martin Jol having slipped in the betting, his odds have shortened by the day.

Fans furious with Ashley's decision threw their weight firmly behind O'Neill in an online poll carried out by the city's evening newspaper, the Evening Chronicle, with the Northern Irishman attracting 42.3% of the 1,000-plus votes cast and Jol claiming 32.8%.

Pardew received just 15, or less than two percent, three times less than Hughton.

That, however, will have little bearing on Ashley's decision.

His reputation as a hard-nosed businessman is well-founded and whatever factors he takes into consideration, public opinion is unlikely to be among them.

He famously dispensed with the services of the manager he inherited from former chairman Freddy Shepherd, Sam Allardyce, in January 2008 to popular acclaim, particularly when he replaced him with Kevin Keegan.

But the move prompted a chaotic period in the club's history which ultimately resulted in relegation from the Barclays Premier League as the revolving door at St James' Park span with increasing velocity.

Having parachuted in another club legend, Alan Shearer, in a vain attempt to avoid the drop, Ashley then angered supporters further by not appointing him on a permanent basis, and it was perennial caretaker Hughton who once again had to take up the slack.

Against all the odds, the Irishman dragged the club back into the big time at the first attempt and, in the eyes of most observers, was making a fist of keeping them there when the axe fell.

However, the club's decision to delay negotiating a new contract and their reluctance to appoint a replacement for number two Colin Calderwood when he departed to take the manager's job at Hibernian in October perhaps told its own story.

Ashley is now hoping to belatedly create the stability the club has lacked for too long to allow his manager to step into the brave new world his regime football as a whole needs to embrace in an era of greater financial responsibility.

That was the motivation behind the ultimately disastrous appointment of Dennis Wise as executive director (football) during Keegan's ill-fated spell at the helm, a move which was supposed to lay the foundation for the club to scour the globe for the best young talent to develop and sell on.

In the short term, Premier League survival and the financial security that would bring is the priority, and while there may be little ready cash available to fund a January spending spree - Hughton had no plans to go back into the market - there may be some room for manoeuvre.

Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese has defended his decision to sack Pardew earlier this season.

Pardew was axed at St Mary's in August despite a solid start to the campaign in League One and replaced by Nigel Adkins.

Cortese told BBC Sport: "I'm not going into details but there were plenty of reasons why it ended up with the sack.

"All the attributes Nigel Adkins has added is something we were missing before. He's changed the attitude. His personality, his way of being, it's motivated people."