Deschamps in frame as reality bites at Newcastle

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The Independent Football

In a situation that may change daily for some time to come, Didier Deschamps last night became the latest favourite for the vacancy at Newcastle United as Gérard Houllier's superior at the French Football Federation, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, said: "Gérard's word is enough for me. He works for us."

Houllier had been the subject of some excitement on Tyneside yesterday but as Houllier travelled to a coaching seminar in Baltimore, Maryland, Escalettes said that he had received reassurances from the 60-year-old former Liverpool manager.

"I talked to Gérard by telephone – he is on business for us in the United States at the moment – and he told me 'every time an English club is in difficulty my name comes up,'" Escalettes said. "Gérard had an extraordinary image in England, I'm flattered to hear his name all over the place, I tell myself we made the right choice, everyone wants to have him."

Newcastle might not but chairman Chris Mort may have spoken to Houllier or his representatives. What is becoming apparent is that Newcastle's list is lengthening, as is the timescale. Blackburn say they still have not received an approach for Mark Hughes.

Newcastle are being contacted by various parties, one of whom represents Deschamps. The former France captain and World Cup winner resigned from Juventus last May: before that he managed Monaco. Deschamps, 39, does speak English from his year at Chelsea, which is one of the criteria Mort spells out as a requirement in his programme notes for tonight's FA Cup replay against Stoke City at St James' Park.

"We need someone willing and able to take on, and cope with, Newcastle United," Mort writes. "However, we are not currently a Champions League team, and in six seasons out of the last 10 we have finished in the bottom half of the Premier League. That means we are not necessarily going to interest a manager who is already at a team playing Champions League football or whose only ambition is to manage a top team in, say, Spain or Italy."

The last remark is seen as a reference to Jose Mourinho and Marcello Lippi. Supporters' expectations are being reduced deliberately. Mort's notes also imply that the style of football under Allardyce was his downfall: "There are some clubs in the country where it is essential that the team generally tries to play football with some flair, and this is one of them.

"We appreciate we will have defeats and losing runs along the way but if the team is not trying to play football 'on the carpet', as Sir Bobby Robson recently described it, I think they will always struggle to win over the followers of Newcastle United."

With an "apologetic" Joey Barton arriving by helicopter at the training ground on Monday, caretaker Nigel Pearson said Newcastle need to win tonight to restore "integrity" and "prestige. Reputations are in question. The big-name players have a responsibility, an added responsibility. It's important everyone plays their part. You could say the players are on trial because there is going to be a different manager."