HARRY Redknapp emerged as the early favourite to become the new manager of Newcastle United last night following the shock departure of Sam Allardyce.
Despite apparently receiving assurances from the board that his job was safe last week, Allardyce’s troubled eight-month reign on Tyneside came to a surprisingly swift end yesterday just a couple of hours after he had discussed his plans to strengthen the squad during the January transfer window.
Allardyce, who was appointed before Mike Ashley’s takeover of the club by former chairman Freddie Shepherd, will receive an estimated £6m pay-off as Ashley and chairman Chris Mort busy themselves with trying to find his successor.
It will be Ashley’s first managerial appointment and the early indications are they will look to the experience of Portsmouth manager Redknapp, rather than the emotional appeal of asking former Newcastle captain Alan Shearer to launch another new era at St James’s Park.
Shearer, who is on holiday in Barbados, has told friends he has had no contact with anyone at Newcastle regarding the manager’s position, while United sources have told The Journal they are looking for an “an experienced manager with status who has prior knowledge of the Premier League.”
Redknapp, who has done a remarkable job on the south coast with Portsmouth, where he has turned a relatively small, unfashionable club into European contenders, would appear to fit that description. Pompey also romped to a stylish 4-1 win over Newcastle at St James’s Park earlier in the season, which may well have caught the eye of Ashley and Mort.
There is likely to be a strong campaign in support of Shearer, the club’s record goalscorer, but those close to Ashley suggest they are not willing, at this stage, to take a risk on a rookie manager, even if he has a special affinity with the club.
With managers like former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and Tottenham’s Martin Jol also out of work, the list of potential targets for the Magpies is an appealing one, but Redknapp appears to be the front runner.
Newcastle were keen to stress last night that they will not be rushed into making a decision about who to appoint and there is a desire to go through the proper channels if, as expected, the manager they want is already employed by another club. The Journal understands there were hastily arranged board meetings at Portsmouth yesterday, although there is no evidence yet that the two matters are related.
Allardyce, though, is unlikely to be concerned about the speculation about his successor as he retreats to lick his wounds following a decision which appears to have taken him completely by surprise.
Although an official club statement released last night insisted Allardyce’s departure was by mutual consent, the former Newcastle manager insisted it had come as a complete shock to him.
He said: “I am disappointed, obviously, but I would like to wish everyone at Newcastle all the best for the future. I hope it goes very, very well this season. I really do. It was a real shock, I did not expect it.”
The club statement only contained a brief message from Mort who said: “Mike and I would like to place on record our thanks for Sam’s efforts and wish him well for the future.
“A new manager has not yet been appointed at Newcastle United.
“We will make a further announcement on the managerial
position when appropriate.” As a leading figure in the League Manager’s Association, Allardyce has often complained about the lack of patience shown to managers in the modern game, but he still did not believe he was about to become the eighth Premier League casualty this season – and Newcastle’s shortest-ever serving manager – when he spoke to the media earlier in the day at the daily Press conference.
He said: “Every manager who has been successful has been given the time to put his dynasty into place. David Moyes is the same, Arsene Wenger is the same. The trouble is today, that amount of time is no longer available.
“That is plain and clear for everybody to see, otherwise seven managers would not have already been sacked in the Premier League this year.”
Shearer has repeatedly been questioned about his management ambitions, and while he has admitted he wants to return to football one day, he has remained non-committal about just when.
In November, he said: “I would not have spent three years doing my A Licence and my B Licence if I did not think I would need them at some stage in my career or in my life.
“It does interest me, but when that time will be, I could not really tell you.
“I am happy in what I am doing, but if I got to 50 or 55 and I had not given it a go, I think there would be something missing.
“When that time will be, your guess is as good as mine.”
The persistent links with Newcastle, however, have caused him some discomfort.
He said: “Unfortunately, I cannot do anything about that because of what I have done in the last 10 or 11 years with Newcastle.
“At times, it is not nice, but I cannot do anything about it.
“I do live here so I am going to be seen around, I am going to be at the games.”
Fresh calculations were once again being made on the streets of Tyneside last night as a man who freely admits he has been enjoying his retirement as a player found himself in the spotlight once again.
Should the call come, he would have a major decision to make, not just over taking the step into management, but over putting his hard-earned status as a folk hero on the line.
Asked about retirement, he said: “I am really enjoying it. It is keeping me busy, but I am also able to do what I want to do, which is have a bit of spare time and play a bit of golf and go away in the school holidays with the kids.
“I am busy, but I don’t mind that because it takes your mind off not playing, which is all I have done since was 15.
“To just walk away from all that was probably not as hard as I thought it would be, to be honest, and that is one of the reasons why.”