Newcastle go for Hughesafter rejection by Redknapp

The Newcastle United chairman, Chris Mort, will endeavour this morning to regain the initiative after one of the worst weekends in even this turbulent club's recent experience.

Rebuffed in their quest for a new manager by Harry Redknapp, though the club contest that, and battered 6-0 at Manchester United, Newcastle and Mort begin again with Mark Hughes, the Blackburn Rovers manager, the new favourite to fill the post.

Alan Shearer's name is also still more prominent than Newcastle would like, apparently, in part, because Redknapp used his post-match Portsmouth press conference at Sunderland yesterday to talk up Shearer as a candidate.

After overseeing Blackburn's 2-1 win at Bolton yesterday, Hughes did not rule out the possibility of joining Newcastle, saying: "It's a hypothetical question and I don't answer hypothetical questions. In football you never say never, but I'm very happy to be Blackburn manager.

"I have got a good situation here, I'm very comfortable and there is continuity. You need time in football and I have been given it. There is speculation surrounding me, but I am Blackburn manager. It's got nothing to do with me. As a professional football manager speculation crops up."

Mike Ashley, the Newcastle owner, knows the Blackburn chairman, John Williams, through Ashley's company's sponsorship of the club a couple of years ago. But there has been no official Newcastle approach to Blackburn for Hughes and Newcastle do not feel the need to appoint a new man before Wednesday's FA Cup third-round replay against Stoke at St James' Park.

The Lancashire club do not yet have a situation to deal with. But the Ewood Park hierarchy and Blackburn fans will note that at no stage did Hughes deny interest in Newcastle, who will, of course, not confirm anything until formal proceedings with any manager in work have begun.

Hughes was not mentioned yesterday at St James' but Redknapp was and there is obvious annoyance that the approach from Newcastle became public so quickly. "Harry Redknapp was never the only name in the frame," said a source. "There is a presumption he was first choice but there is a difference between a job interview and offer. We have spoken to more than one person, we will be speaking to more people and it should not be narrowed down to people from these shores."

The reference to overseas possibilities will cause excitement about certain names but one of them, Louis van Gaal, has already ruled himself out. Martin Jol was rather less certain, saying: " Newcastle is an interesting club with potential but I don't comment on speculation." While describing the football under Sam Allardyce as "abysmal", the Newcastle life president, Sir John Hall, threw up the name of Gérard Houllier. The striker Michael Owen would be delighted about that as he played under Houllier at Liverpool.

Redknapp described as "absolute rubbish" the idea that he wanted to commute from the South Coast by private jet, but Newcastle maintain that was his immediate demand. "People can say what they want," Redknapp said, "I was offered the job."

Having declined it, Redknapp was asked about who he thinks should get the post. His first two words were: "Alan Shearer."

He added: "He would set the place alight. The fans would love it. He could bring a couple of experienced people alongside him, that's not a problem for him. Alan fits the bill because of what he is to Newcastle and what the place means to him, what the fans think of him, what a player he was for them.

"He is everything. He is a Geordie. For me it would be absolutely perfect. That's only my opinion. I wouldn't want to look any further than Alan Shearer. I didn't tell Chris Mort that, I am sure he was not interested in what I had to say.

"Shearer knows the players, they would respect him, they would look up to him. They idolise him there, that would be a great start. He knows the place inside out and that would compensate for any lack of managerial experience."

Shearer returns from his holiday in Barbados tomorrow but, despite having a good relationship with Mort, the former Newcastle striker accepts that it is "extremely unlikely" that he will be asked to become Allardyce's successor.

Graeme Souness, a former Newcastle manager, yesterday said that he would be willing return to the post now the club has a new chairman. Souness previously worked under Freddy Shepherd at St James' Park. "With [there now being] a different chairman, most certainly [I'd be interested]," Souness said.

When pressed on whether he would take the job if it was offered, he said: "In a heartbeat. It is a big club. It has got the potential to be one of the best. But it's not a quick fix, and whoever gets it is going to need a minimum of three or four years."

Quotes attributed to Ashley yesterday were said to be erroneous by Newcastle. Ashley will not be relinquishing the terraces for the boardroom as has been said and will not be switching his day-to-day concentration and workload from his company Sports Direct to Newcastle United.

But he returns this week from the Far East with his club reeling. After Saturday's drubbing at Old Trafford, caretaker Nigel Pearson surveyed the damage and said: "I don't think whoever comes into the job next will be under any illusions that it's going to be anything other than very difficult. There has to be a bit of stability some time soon."

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