Shearer: We need to stay up

Alan Shearer has warned his players they face a stark choice between playing in front of packed houses in the Barclays Premier League or 10,000 fans in the Coca-Cola Championship.

The new Newcastle boss outlined his determination to drag the club to safety when he was officially unveiled as manager until the end of the season yesterday.

However, while he is taking a bullish approach to his task and is convinced the squad he has inherited has enough quality to stave off relegation, he is fully aware of the alternative.

Shearer said: “What do we want now? Do we want to be playing in front of 10,000 or 12,000 people next season in grounds not as good as ours next year?

“Or do we want to be playing here at St James’ and going to Old Trafford and Anfield?

“There’s no choice – we need to stay up, and it has to be done.

“And I have seen enough from the players already to suggest that they are capable of it.

“It’s now a case of getting them to believe that. I believe it and hopefully they will as well.”

The euphoria of Shearer’s return to the club for whom he went into battle on so many occasions as a player will ensure a capacity crowd turns up at St James’ Park tomorrow to acclaim him when the Magpies host Chelsea.

However, the briefest of glances at the league table is all the evidence anyone needs to know the task that lies ahead of the 38-year-old.

Two points adrift of safety with only eight games to play, the Magpies are in deep trouble and serious candidates for the drop.

Four of their remaining fixtures will be played on Tyneside and seem likely to hold the key to their salvation or otherwise.

Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Fulham are still to visit St James’ after high-flying Chelsea, while next weekend’s difficult trip to fellow strugglers Stoke will be followed by away games at resurgent Tottenham, Liverpool and, on a potentially make-or-break final day, Aston Villa.

Shearer could hardly have been handed a tougher opening fixture but, just as he did at his first press conference, he is refusing to throw in the towel in advance.

With the vast majority of a crowd of 52,000 firmly in his corner tomorrow, he has not given up hope of pulling off what would be a shock result.

He said: “I keep hearing people say it is a tough game. I understand that.

“Chelsea have world-class players and a great, experienced manager. They are going for the Premier League and they are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

“However, I still think it is a great game for us to have. I’m not having the fact people keep saying, ’We will not get anything here’.

“I do not accept that, I really don’t. If we do not gain anything tomorrow and the other teams win, they will be five points ahead of us.

“We do not want that. We have to take something.”

Shearer has not given up hope of having injured trio Steven Taylor, Sebastien Bassong and Damien Duff at his disposal, although the two defenders in particular remain doubts with ankle and groin injuries, respectively.

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