Shearer ready to tie up long-term future at Newcastle

Alan Shearer appears to be edging closer to committing himself long-term to Newcastle United, providing the club's owner, Mike Ashley, can assure Shearer of authority, stability and investment. He suspended his contract with the BBC to sign an eight-game contract with the club, and declined once again yesterday to talk about anything other than what remains of this season, but it seems ever more likely that Shearer wishes to continue at St James' Park beyond the next three crucial relegation games against Middlesbrough, Fulham and Aston Villa, regardless of whether Newcastle stay in the Premier League or not.

Partly out of courtesy to Joe Kinnear and partly because of the rushed nature of the appointment, Shearer has consistently refused to discuss the topic of what happens after 24 May. He and Ashley have also had to use some of this period to establish a relationship, as contact was minimal before.

But despite not yet overseeing a victory in his five games in charge, and despite this week experiencing the sort of turbulence Joey Barton brings, Shearer is obviously revelling in the role.

"I am enjoying it, without a doubt," Shearer said yesterday, while dead-batting questions with a longer-term element. "There have been a few challenges but as daft as it seems I am enjoying it."

Similar comments have been made almost every week and Shearer has also been given the power by the Newcastle board to dismiss the club's doctor, a permanent employee.

That level of authority has come from the hierarchy and has been seen again this week in the Barton situation. Shearer's increased discipline at the club's training ground has been rubber-stamped from above.

Shearer said he spoke to Barton "on Monday, late afternoon, very briefly." The decision to suspend Barton for his reaction to his dismissal was already taken.

Asked if Barton had apologised to him, Shearer replied: "We've said what we've said about the Joey thing, he's suspended until further notice so I can't really go into things other than what we've told you." Pressed on whether Barton has affected preparations for Monday night's must-win game against Boro, Shearer added: "No it hasn't at all to be honest, the mood around the place has been good."

Shearer said that he is not managing "with an iron rod" but repeated his view that reporting for training at 10am does not represent hardship. "I'm not asking anyone to do anything ridiculous, not at all. I'm just asking for common sense, to be in on time for training to adhere to the standards that Bobby Robson asked of me or Kenny Dalglish asked of me for meetings et cetera. That's it.

"There was a fine system in place, I've increased that for whatever reason, make your own mind up. I'm just asking players to be on time for work and I don't think that's too much of a problem, particularly when it's 10 o'clock in the morning."

Michael Owen is back in contention for Monday night having been dropped for the game at Liverpool.

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