Ashley eyes Hughton replacement

NEWCASTLE owner Mike Ashley is stepping up his efforts to find a replacement for sacked manager Chris Hughton before the weekend.

Two days after axing the man who dragged the Magpies back out of the Coca-Cola Championship at the first attempt, club officials are running the rule over a series of potential replacements in the hope of making an appointment within the next 48 hours.

Former Reading, West Ham and Charlton boss Alan Pardew, who was sacked from his latest post at Southampton in August, edged back ahead of Martin Jol in the betting following a surge of support for the Dutchman in the immediate aftermath of his resignation at Ajax on Monday.

There was no official word from the Jol camp yesterday, while sources close to Alan Curbishley, another man linked with the post, insisted he is “highly unlikely” to be the club’s next manager.

Martin O’Neill has been the name on the lips of many supporters since Hughton lost his job. But with Ashley determined to run the club as a financially sound business, any new manager would have to work within stringent guidelines, and O’Neill’s dissatisfaction with the backing he received during the latter days of his reign at Aston Villa suggests the job on Tyneside may not be for him.

Hughton was the victim of Newcastle’s desperation not to surrender their Premier League status for a second time and the revenue implications that would bring.

Ashley’s blueprint for long-term success is dependent on the club retaining their place among English football’s elite, and the owner acted after a run of five games which yielded just two points.

The Magpies head into Saturday evening’s clash with a resurgent Liverpool sitting in 12th place in the table with 19 points, close to halfway to the total normally required to stay up.

Peter Beardsley is in temporary charge but one man who won’t be the next manager is Alan Shearer.

The 40-year-old, whose previous stint in charge of the club coincided with their relegation and ended in a falling-out with owner Mike Ashley, has ruled himself out. “I won’t be the next Newcastle manager,” he said. “I can guarantee you that.”

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