Shearer meets Ashley for Newcastle contract
LONDON: Alan Shearer will meet Mike Ashley tomorrow to try to thrash out an agreement that would see him sign a four-year contract as Newcastle United's manager.
Before signing, Shearer will drive a hard bargain with the owner of the newly relegated club. While Ashley has placed a deal running until 2013 on the table, the former England captain seems set to demand autonomy over recruitment, a radical backroom revamp and a significant transfer budget.
After failing to prevent the team from dropping into the Championship during his eight-game stay, Shearer will inform Ashley that the club requires root-and-branch reform and advise the owner to help fund an immediate return to the Premier League by making a further investment, possibly as much as £30m.
While the legal loose ends of Shearer's contract may not be tied up overnight, he has stressed the need for Ashley and his managing director, Derek Llambias, to act quickly. "Newcastle needs to be filled with people who love this club," he said. "The problem we've already got is that we're lagging behind the other Championship teams who have already started preparing for next season.Newcastle will be a huge scalp for the whole of the Championship and we're up against it already so big decisions need to be made and need to be made soon. I will give my opinions to the men in charge and then it's up to them to see where they want to go."
Changes behind the scenes are expected to include the replacement of the senior coaches Chris Hughton and Colin Calderwood with John Carver. Until recently the manager of Toronto FC in Canada, Carver was extremely highly rated by Ruud Gullit and Sir Bobby Robson while serving as first-team coach under their charge. It is thought Carver's sudden resignation from Toronto and recent return to Tyneside are not entirely coincidental.
Shearer also appears ready to create a role for his tactically astute former Newcastle and England team-mate Rob Lee, while Bob Dowie, the brother of Shearer's assistant Iain Dowie, may also become part of the new regime.
Shearer and Ashley are agreed that there needs to be a mass clearout of high-earning players – Newcastle have 15 eachof them commanding in excess of £50,000 a week – although, with many on long-term contracts, this may be easier said than done. At first glance they look unlikely bedfellows but Newcastle's owner has been effectively backed into a corner by the club's record scorer and, with Shearer in a position of considerable strength, he is expected to bow to his demands.
Should negotiations break down and the local hero instead return to his former job as a pundit for the BBC, Ashley would face the full wrath of Newcastle fans who have struggled to forgive him for allowing Kevin Keegan to walk out last September. Moreover, senior Newcastle players have urged the multi-millionaire retailer to do everything in his power to retain Shearer. Steven Taylor and Damien Duff believe a major rethink is required at St James' Park and that Shearer is not only the right man to reformulate philosophy and policy but also to lead them back into the Premier League. In a damning indictment of the modus operandi of previous managers, among them Joe Kinnear, Keegan and Sam Allardyce, Duff revealed: "This has been a proper club for eight weeks now."
Tellingly, Shearer, who has already overhauled the medical and scouting departments, is the first manager working for Ashley to have extracted significant concessions about the way the club is run from a man with whom Allardyce and Keegan struggled to communicate.
The Ireland winger, signed three years ago from Chelsea by Glenn Roeder, feels such managerial clout will pay long-term dividends. "It's the first time in a long time that this place has felt like a proper football club," Duff said. "Alan Shearer has been brilliant for eight weeks. If there is one man to get us back up into the Premier League, it is him. Hopefully the gaffer will stay."
Taylor, an England Under-21 defender, said: "There have to be big changes after this. People have to realise it is an honour to play for Newcastle United football club. You have to give it 100%. The past 10 months haven't been good enough. We need more belief and a positive mental attitude. We need stability. The only person I think can take Newcastle back up to the Premier League is Alan Shearer. He has been fantastic to work with."