Ashley, Toons to trust legend Shearer

Mike Ashley can win over Newcastle's beleaguered fans by appointing Alan Shearer as manager, according to Rob Lee.

Lee expects his former England and Newcastle teammate will one day take charge at St James' Park and has hinted Shearer would relish the task of reviving his hometown club.

"I can honestly say, yes, Alan Shearer will manage Newcastle," Lee told The Mag, Newcastle's leading fanzine.

"Until now I would have just said that he would one day but I finally believe that he would tomorrow if the job is how he wants it, without all the silly games going on that have killed it."

Magpies idol Shearer has long been considered a future manager of the club. However, with the club embroiled in crisis after crisis since his retirement from playing in 2006, the 38-year-old has repeatedly distanced himself from the role, preferring to remain in his position as a pundit on the BBC's Match of the Day.

Lee, however, believes Ashley, who put the club up for sale following the furor surrounding Kevin Keegan's resignation in September, could win over the fans by appointing Shearer as boss.

Whelan: Owner Ashley being 'greedy' on sale
Wigan owner Dave Whelan has accused Mike Ashley of being "greedy" as he reportedly holds out for a buyer who will pay £250million for Newcastle.

Whelan also believes Ashley underestimated the magnitude of what he was taking on when he bought the Magpies in July 2007.

Ashley put the club up for sale after the backlash following Kevin Keegan's abrupt departure in September.

Investment bank Seymour Pierce have been tasked with selling the club and revealed there were two "very serious contenders" but as yet nothing has materialized.

Whelan believes his Newcastle counterpart is being unrealistic.

He said: "If Mike Ashley will sell it for the right money, he will sell it next week.

"Now, is he being greedy? Yes."

He continued: "I don't think he has thought things through and I don't think he really appreciated just how passionate people are up there about their football.

"It is very difficult for someone who is not a Geordie to run that football club and I said to Mike Ashley: 'You are better off just getting your money back and stepping away.'

"You can't sack Kevin Keegan and expect the fans to get behind you.

"He will never be able to repair the damage between himself and the fans. Do that and you are down the pan.

"I told him, 'You're gone.'"

Wigan boss Steve Bruce led his side to a last-gasp 2-2 draw at St James' Park on Saturday and he has been linked with a return to his native north-east.

Whelan, though, poured scorn on such a possibility.

"He won't come here and work with Mike Ashley," Whelan added.

"Steve wants to work with a chairman who understands the game and does not expect too much, too soon.

"There is no chance he would go near a football club if it is not run the way he thinks it should be."

'No rift with Owen' pleads Newcastle boss Joe Kinnear
Newcastle boss Joe Kinnear today insisted there was no rift between himself and captain Michael Owen.

Kinnear opted to use the England striker only as a substitute in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Wigan, despite the 28-year-old's assertion in his program notes that he has been fit after a groin injury for a couple of weeks.

However, Owen also described Kinnear's decision to re-introduce him gradually as "fine", and the 61-year-old, who has repeatedly backed predecessor Kevin Keegan's assertion that the £17million man's contractual situation should be treated as a priority, was quick to respond.

He said: "People are trying to put a wedge between us for whatever reason.

"Obviously, the fact is that Michael's concerned about his future and his contract. If I'm appointed, I will do something about it.

"And for what it's worth, I have said from day one that in my opinion, he should be in the England squad. That's my honest opinion.

"I feel for him because of the situation he finds himself in both for club and country, but he answered all that in the best possible way by coming off the bench and scoring for us on Saturday."

Owen entered the fray 68 minutes into Saturday's game with his side trailing 1-0 to 10-man Wigan and looking unlikely to turn the game around.

He passed up a glorious opportunity within two minutes of his arrival, but made no mistake 10 minutes from time to claim his sixth goal in 11 appearances for the club this season.

Kinnear said: "I could have taken the easy option of playing him earlier when he was struggling for fitness, but had he broken down, what position would I have been in then?

"I could have taken the cheating option, if you like, given I'm only here for eight games, and put him in on my very first game even though he hadn't trained for a week.

"What would everyone had said if he'd broken down?"

The futures of both Kinnear and Owen could become clearer later this week with the interim boss having indicated last month that an announcement on owner Mike Ashley's efforts to sell the club might come in the wake of Saturday's daunting trip to Chelsea.

What that may be remains to be seen - two American consortia have been credited with a serious interest in buying the Magpies, although Keith Harris, chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce which is handling the sale, has hinted that the prevailing economic conditions are proving a complicating factor.

But with Owen, as well as Nicky Butt and Steve Harper, able to talk to prospective new employers in January as they enter the final few months of their current deals and the winter transfer window fast approaching, Ashley will have to decide whether to stick or twist.

There is little doubt the current squad needs strengthening significantly with Newcastle perched precariously above the drop zone on goal difference, and that was the case before it emerged today that midfielder Joey Barton is unlikely to play again this year.

The 26-year-old suffered a slight tear to the medial ligament in his right knee in a challenge with Lee Cattermole on Saturday, and could be sidelined for eight weeks.

Barton, who underwent scans yesterday, said: "I am not blaming Lee Cattermole in any way for this injury. It was a 50-50 ball and we both went for it, and these things happen.

"Obviously, it's disappointing and frustrating, and my sole intention is to knuckle down and bounce back and get fit again to help the Newcastle United cause."

Barton has made only five appearances this season after being jailed for assault and affray, and serving a six-match ban imposed after a training ground incident involving former Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo.

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