Alan Shearer picks out three key players to keep at NUFC

ALAN Shearer will begin discussions with Mike Ashley today by asking Newcastle United’s embattled owner not to include Nicky Butt, Steven Taylor and Steve Harper as part of the club’s post-relegation fire sale.

Alan Shearer

ALAN Shearer will begin discussions with Mike Ashley today by asking Newcastle United’s embattled owner not to include Nicky Butt, Steven Taylor and Steve Harper as part of the club’s post-relegation fire sale.

Shearer was at Newcastle’s Darsley Park training ground yesterday for a gentle conditioning session with the players responsible for ending United’s 16-year stint in the top flight – but United’s caretaker manager will begin the serious business of sorting out his future today and tomorrow.

Ashley is understood to be preparing a four-year contract offer for Shearer, as well as offering him assurances of a sizeable transfer fund if he can move the club’s big earners off the books.

Both the club and Shearer are desperate for a swift resolution to the saga so that United can begin planning for next season’s Championship campaign as soon as possible. Shearer is acutely aware that other clubs in the division have already had a fortnight to plan ahead, and said on Sunday that the job becomes more difficult with every passing day.

Shearer has mitigated that by drafting a blueprint for next season already, with the established trio of Harper, Taylor and Butt all central to his plans. As revealed in The Journal last week, the club will have to effectively transfer list every single player in their squad to cope with the financial consequences of dropping into the Championship.

And, while Shearer knows that reasonable offers will have to be listened to, he believes that Taylor, Harper and Butt are the kind of characters that the club will need as they begin their fight back.

Taylor is unlikely to be short of suitors this summer. Arsenal have kept an eye on him for several years and good performances in the Under-21 European Championships in Sweden this summer will only increase the amount of interest.

But the player, one of the few who comes out of the campaign with any credit, feels a debt of loyalty to his boyhood club. Although he admitted he would have to “play it by ear” this summer, Shearer’s permanent appointment could persuade him.

“This has devastated everybody. There have to be big changes after this and people need to realise it is an honour to play for Newcastle United Football Club – it doesn’t matter what club you are at,” he said. “You have to give it 100% and the past 10 months hasn’t been good enough. It is starting to sink in now we are a Championship team and we have to deal with it.

“We have to put ourselves back up there. St James’s Park is going to have to be a fortress.”

The consequences of relegation are likely to be devastating to a club that was already relying on handouts from Ashley to keep the books balanced. Shearer raised the prospect of the club having to make staff redundant before the crunch Aston Villa game, and they will seek to streamline operations in other ways, too.

But the vast majority of the club’s focus will be on shaving the £80m wage bill that has hung like a yoke around the club’s neck.

One player definitely not returning to St James’s Park next season will be Peter Lovenkrands, whose short-term deal with United has run out. His agent said yesterday that he wants to play Premier League football again next season, and indicated that he will be looking for another club. The Dane scored three goals during his time at Newcastle but was anonymous at Villa Park.

“We are looking for a new contract for Peter in England,” his agent Ivan Marko Benes told Bild.dk. “Most players want to play in the top division, so Peter is no different.”

Meanwhile Jonas Gutierrez will concentrate on Argentina’s forthcoming World Cup qualifiers before considering his Newcastle future.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer