Redknapp remains top target for Newcastle

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Following a day of decisions at Newcastle United, a day of denials. Portsmouth and Harry Redknapp both said yesterday that there had been no official contact from Newcastle with the club or their manager, yet the belief on Tyneside remained that Redknapp is the man Newcastle's owner, Mike Ashley, wishes to see succeed Sam Allardyce, who was sacked on Wednesday. Associates of Redknapp said that the 60 year-old spent some of yesterday investigating the possibility of taking over at St James' Park, including taking soundings from other managers.

Elsewhere there were denials from Blackburn and Everton regarding Mark Hughes and David Moyes and ongoing – some say intriguing – silence from Alan Shearer, on holiday in Barbados. A former Chelsea colleague of Jose Mourinho said there had been no approach for the Portuguese from Newcastle.

Into the vacuum came a welter of gossip about Kevin Keegan, and an influx of money on the former Newcastle messiah. Newcastle, meanwhile, said nothing and while there may be movement before tomorrow's match at Manchester United there is not expected to be an appointment.

"I really do not know anything about this," Redknapp said yesterday morning. "I have not spoken to anyone from Newcastle. There's nothing in my being linked with the job. I had an offer not so long ago to take over at what I consider a massive club but I didn't go. I am happy down on the South Coast."

That domestic contentment in Dorset is believed to be one of the factors Redknapp was pondering yesterday. He will be given a taste of the North-east on Sunday when he takes Portsmouth to Sunderland.

His present employers reacted to the speculation surrounding Redknapp by issuing a statement in the afternoon.

"We take it as a compliment that our players and personnel are often linked with some of the top clubs in this country, and indeed abroad," it began. "It is testimony to the quality of their work. However, we do feel it necessary to correct some of the inaccuracies in reports that have surfaced today. The club has received no approach for the services of our valued manager Harry Redknapp.

"He remains as committed as ever and he recently signed a new, improved four-year contract with Portsmouth. The club has made significant investments over the last two years in both players and infrastructure, and the results now being enjoyed are the fruits of those investments.

"Last year the club finished in its highest position for 52 years and this season we're on course to better that. We've recently won nine out of 10 away games – a club record. We're in the middle of the busiest time of the season because of the heavy fixture list and month-long transfer window and, as such, this speculation is unhelpful."

Another pertinent voice heard was that of Paul Kemsley, the former Tottenham director who is a close friend of Ashley – the pair first met over 20 years ago when working in sports shops in Maidenhead. Kemsley also knows Redknapp well: the two owned a horse together called Sunshine Rays.

Kemsley chose to speak on Radio Five, saying of Ashley: "He has a plan. I spoke to him this morning in Hong Kong, where he is on business with Sir Phillip Green.

"He is at the top of his game and he is passionate about Newcastle and will give them all backing. If I was a Newcastle fan, I would be very excited.

"That man will deliver. There is no question there will be more money. Mike has cleaned up the accounts and it is in the best financial shape it has been in for a while.

"This love affair which he has with this club happened a lot quicker than he ever thought. He has felt the warmth. He has been made to feel very welcome up there. The point he made to me was: 'People talk about managers being given time. Well, what about giving me time?'

"He hasn't even had a window to work in yet. This is the first one and we know it is a difficult window to work in because no one wants to sell their best players. He is very committed and he has shown that already with the investment."

Doubts over Ashley's commitment have been eroded – Kemsley said he has invested £250m in Newcastle since buying the club in May – but Tyneside's scrutiny fell on Redknapp yesterday after the whirlwind of Wednesday.

It could not be said there was universal approval: in fact, aside from style of play, Redknapp for Allardyce strikes many as a like-for-like appointment that does not equate with the drama of Allardyce's sudden dismissal. Also, there is already a palpable uncertainty about whether Redknapp's particular brand of "Cockneyness" would fit at St James'. These may seem like vague and distracting concerns but they are a couple of reasons why Shearer's name continues to be talked about among a circle of people who know the club intimately.

North-South divide: How clubs and cities compare

The history:

Founded: Portsmouth: 1898. Newcastle: 1892.

Last major honour:

Portsmouth: League Championship, 1950. Newcastle: FA Cup, 1955.

The crowds:

Portsmouth: Fervent, obsessive, loyal. Newcastle: Sentimental, unforgiving, desperate. Average crowd this season: Portsmouth: 19,943 (19th best in Premier League, capacity: 20,688). Newcastle: 50,870 (third best, capacity: 52,387).

The resources:

Transfer spending since summer 2004: Portsmouth: £39.8m. Newcastle: £92m.

The cities:

Population: Portsmouth: 187,056. Newcastle: 189,963 (figures from 2001 census).

2007 average house price:

Portsmouth: £175,907. Newcastle: £171,122.