Mike Ashley wants swift Newcastle appointment

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is hoping to appoint a replacement for sacked manager Chris Hughton by the weekend.

The Magpies hierarchy are talking to potential candidates in the wake of Hughton's departure yesterday, and the names of Martin Jol, Alan Pardew and Alan Curbishley are firmly in the frame.

Tyneside legend and reserve team manager Peter Beardsley has been given temporary charge of team affairs ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with former club Liverpool.

However, Press Association Sport understands that he could do so with a new manager already in place if Ashley gets his way.

Hughton's departure yesterday afternoon sent the rumour mill into overdrive, but while some of wilder speculation was little short of fanciful - Joe Kinnear is not among those being considered - an unofficial shortlist quickly emerged.

Jol, who stepped down form his post at Ajax yesterday, swiftly replaced Pardew, sacked by Southampton in August, at the top of the betting.

Curbishley has now settled his acrimonious dispute with West Ham, the club he left in September 2008 in protest at boardroom interference.

But the man who eventually succeeds Hughton will have to persuade Ashley that he can work within a very definite framework.

The sportswear magnate has taken his own, highly individual approach to running the club he bought back in 2007 and it has been one which has more often sparked fury rather than praise.

A hugely successful businessman in his own right, he has attempted to introduce a greater degree of financial realism into an enterprise which, like many of its counterparts, has lived beyond its means for many years.

Relegation from the Premier League prompted swingeing budget cuts, and the club which emerged from the Championship at the first attempt this summer was a much leaner entity.

Hughton rebuilt for life in the top flight on a shoestring - he had no plans to invest in the team in January - and the man who replaces him should not expect to have cash thrown at him.

For that reason, former Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill is an outsider, although a man whose talent, experience and availability mean he is a favourite with the supporters.

Ashley's blueprint was drawn up with the long-term in mind and predicated on the club's continued presence in the Premier League and the financial stability that would provide, and his doubts over Hughton's ability to deliver that this season, rightly or wrongly, were ultimately responsible for his demise.

In the meantime, Beardsley was today getting down to work with the players, who were training at St James' Park, in preparation for Saturday evening's game and the task of attempting to improve upon a return of just two points from the past five league games.

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