Newcastle chief promises top class manager

April 3, 2006

Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has promised the club's new manager will be of the highest calibre.

Shepherd revealed at the weekend he intends to appoint Graeme Souness' successor before the end of the current campaign, but remains adamant he will not be rushed into his decision.

Speculation has been rife over potential targets ever since Souness was sacked on February 2 but with caretaker Glenn Roeder having initially steadied the ship and then halted a run of four successive defeats with Saturday's 3-1 win over Tottenham, he has vowed to take his time.

'I know all our supporters are very interested in what is happening with the vacant managerial position at St James' Park, and I can tell you that we are making progress towards the appointment of a new manager,' said Shepherd.

'But as I said last month, there is no need to hurry into a decision and we will take the correct amount of time to ensure we get the appointment absolutely right.

'This will be one of the most important decisions ever taken at this football club, for we are entering a period in the game when the leading clubs are opening up a larger and larger gap between themselves and the others - and we have to maintain ourselves as one of those leading clubs.

'Rest assured, we are working ceaselessly towards getting our new manager in place, but only when the time is right will we name the man to lead the team in the immediate future.

'There has been a huge amount of speculation on the matter, and we have understandably distanced ourselves from that.

'But our supporters should know that there has been a great deal of interest in the position from an exciting list of coaches.

'One thing is for certain: we have a long list of candidates of the highest calibre to select from.'

Former Celtic boss Martin O'Neill has long been touted as one of the leading candidates for both the Newcastle and England jobs, while Roberto Mancini, Gerard Houllier and Ronald Koeman are among those to have been linked with the post.

Roeder, with the assistance of captain Alan Shearer, can only remain in charge for 12 weeks under Premiership rules.

However, reserve team coach Tommy Craig has the necessary qualification Roeder lacks so the current regime could remain in position for the final two matches of the season with a minor adjustment.

Whatever is happening off the pitch, Shearer and his team-mates are concentrating simply on events on it, and Saturday's victory over Champions League hopefuls Spurs came as a major boost.

The win left the Magpies 10 points adrift of the top six, and while European qualification may still be a dream, the 35-year-old insists they have got to aim as high as possible.

'You cannot rule anything out,' he said. 'While getting into Europe is going to be very, very difficult, we will not give up and we will fight and scrap for everything right to the end.

'We know that if we play like we did against Spurs, then we will get a few more points on the board.'

Meanwhile, £17million striker Michael Owen is continuing his fight for fitness after undergoing minor surgery on the toe injury which has sidelined him since New Year's Eve.

Newcastle are not putting any pressure on the 26-year-old as he attempts to return in time to prove his fitness ahead of this summer's World Cup Finals.

It had been hoped he would be ready to play in the derby clash with Middlesbrough on Sunday but now the trip to Birmingham on April 29 looks a more realistic target.