The Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink is so good he's got two jobs in a profession where many struggle to keep one. And Hiddink offered a healthy dose of realism to suggestions that Shearer will be the instant answer to the prayers of the Geordie nation. "It depends on your religion whether you believe in Messiahs," Hiddink said yesterday as he returned to his job at Chelsea after a stint with Russia.
Hiddink and Shearer represent polar opposites when it comes to management. Hiddink, 62, was an average professional who spent five years working as an assistant before embarking on a tracksuit career in which he has led four national sides. Shearer, 38, was England's leading striker who has been sat on the Match of the Day couch since retiring three years ago. Their backgrounds could not be more dissimilar, and while Hiddink accepted the "Shearer effect" will lift Newcastle when their teams meet this afternoon, he said the new man has his work cut out if he is to make it as a top class manager.
"Sometimes in these circumstances any input, especially from someone with a big personality and history with the club, is good," Hiddink said. "He may have no experience of being a manager but in this phase of the league it is not always important to know how to do training sessions. You have people who can prepare perfect training sessions. It's more about the psychological and mental input from ex-players like him."
The appointment of a stellar name, however, comes with its own problems, Hiddink said. Managers who were once great players find it hard to coach players of lesser ability. "It's not always when you are a top, top player that you are guaranteed to be a top manager as well," Hiddink said. "Top, top players think everything is going to happen automatically. For them having the talent, it's normal. But for most players who are not that gifted, you have to help them out in practice in a different way and it's not a guarantee."
Hiddink said the impact of Shearer's arrival will only be truly felt in the coming days and weeks. Once the excitement dies down, the real work – what Hiddink referred to as "the daily madness of football" – must be done and Shearer has to learn fast. "You must also add many tools to be a manager," said Hiddink. "Besides the game of tomorrow, managers get interested in a lot of other things – how to prepare a team, how to make training sessions. We practise always with an aim. It's not just for passing time or having a nice workout. No, we aim every day a strategical, physical or tactical aspect of the game. That's the part where the new managers have to broaden their knowledge. There are several aspects of being a manager. I hope even in my older age that I am still learning."
The Dutchman returned to Chelsea on Thursday after 10 days away in charge of Russia, where critics have been calling for him to leave despite victories against Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein. He claimed he kept in touch with his Chelsea assistant Ray Wilkins throughout his absence, but admitted he only spoke to him "almost every day".
Hiddink's ability to juggle both jobs will come under further scrutiny if he fails to improve on Chelsea's 1-0 defeat at Tottenham on their last outing. They travel north without striker Didier Drogba, who has an ankle injury, and defender Jose Bosingwa, who has strained a hamstring.