Safety would be first among Shearer's feats

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The Independent Online

It is a brave man who challenges Alan Shearer to place his caps, medals and awards on the table, yet if he was asked to trade it all for something as seemingly cheap as a goalless draw, he would accept the exchange: that is if the draw was at Aston Villa this afternoon and it kept Newcastle United in the Premier League.

For that, Shearer would give his all. This shows where Newcastle are on the last day of the season. Desperate.

Shearer said of this inglorious scenario that, if it ends well, it would surpass all that has gone before. "Definitely, one hundred per cent. Definitely. It would be everything. It would be bigger than anything. Bigger than winning the title, bigger than captaining England, which was the biggest thing in my playing career.

"I remember everything about winning the title with Blackburn at Anfield," he added. "But avoiding relegation on Sunday would top that. It would be because of the season that we have had. It has only gone on for me for eight weeks, but it has been an incredible eight weeks."

This is a man bitten by the bug of management. It is no great surprise. On the pitch Shearer played with a foreman's authority, so much so that the Blackburn chairman Jack Walker offered him the manager's job while he was still in his mid-20s. Since then it has felt like a matter of time before Shearer entered the profession.

What is more surprising is that it has taken this long, and that now that he has done so, it is only for eight matches at his hometown club. As it stands, Shearer will reach the end of his contract on the final whistle at Villa, and though on Friday at Newcastle's training ground a lengthy series of press calls passed without a mention of Joe Kinnear, it is Kinnear who can claim technically to be the full-time manager of New- castle United.

Owner Mike Ashley will feel a debt of personal loyalty to Kinnear but even at a club of strange decisions, Kinnear's return would provoke consternation. Ashley has the man to take the club forward in-house, and after today's game it is all about how they do that, if they can do that.

Agreement has to be reached on finance, because whether Newcastle are in the Premier League or the Championship, more money needs to be spent on yet another makeover.

"I can't allow myself to think about it. It would be wrong of me to do so," Shearer said of his immediate future.

"The financial side is not important today but it will be on Monday morning. Whoever is in charge, investment needs to be there. That is another issue to be talked about with whoever is in charge next season. I am sure that will be talked about next week. I will have a meeting with Mike next week and see what is best for the club.

"It is a fantastic football club. Yes, huge mistakes have been made. But we have one last chance to rectify that."

One last chance. The involvement of Hull and Sunderland was foreseeable when Shearer agreed to the role eight weeks ago, but last Saturday's home defeat by Fulham brought Sir Alex Ferguson back into this affair. Shearer has famously rejected Manchester United twice but the idea that he does not respect the club or their manager is risible.

"He will never, ever put a team out that he doesn't think can win, Alex Ferguson will do what is best for his football club," Shearer said. "He has earned the right to put whatever side out he wants [against relegation rivals Hull today] by winning the League early and being in the Champions' League final. You are talking about Manchester United, the biggest football club in the world. They will want to win the game.

"I have had a million encounters with Alex over the years and we have both said our stuff," Shearer added. "We get on fine, there is no problem between us at all. We have laughed and joked about it."

Shearer laughter at six o'clock would mean that the highest of highs had been attained. However, he was also asked if relegation would mean the lowest of lows. His one-word answer was: "Yes".

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