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By ESPN Staff

Newcastle forced to start over in manager search

Newcastle were today forced to renew their search for a new manager after Harry Redknapp rejected the chance to head for St James' Park.

The 60-year-old held talks with Magpies chairman Chris Mort yesterday, but after mulling over the offer, turned up for training this morning to reveal he had decided to stay with Pompey.

Redknapp's decision will come as a massive blow to Mort and owner Mike Ashley, who had been confident of landing their number one target after dispensing with the services of Sam Allardyce on Wednesday.

They now find themselves back at square one after days of frenzied speculation with much more to come.

Newcastle privately insisted from the off that they were looking to recruit an experienced manager, and hinted that their focus was on one currently in employment.

That instantly ruled out fans' favourite Alan Shearer, who intimated through friends in the immediate aftermath of Allardyce's departure that he was not a candidate to replace him.

The story took in intriguing twist last night when reports surfaced that the 37-year-old had suggested he would take the job if offered it, although the claims were given little credence.

Shearer's name will inevitably figure significantly in the betting - he was swiftly installed as a 5-2 favourite by Ladbrokes this morning - and it remains to be seen how committed the club is to recruiting a man with a proven track record.

Blackburn boss Mark Hughes found himself thrust into the race for the hot-seat as Redknapp emerged as the front-runner, although he expressed his satisfaction with his lot at Ewood Park yesterday.

Everton's David Moyes too was an early contender, but chairman Bill Kenwright later revealed he had received assurances from Ashley that his manager was not in his sights.

There is popular support too for former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and Martin Jol, while the frankly unlikely prospect of Kevin Keegan returning to St James', either as manager or in partnership with Shearer, remains for many the dream ticket.

However, there was talk on Tyneside in the wake of Redknapp's decision of former England boss Steve McClaren, an outsider in the betting at 33-1, nursing Shearer through the early years of his management career.

Having seen their first attempt fail, Ashley and Mort will now step up their search knowing all the time that as the days slip by, so to do their new manager's chances of strengthening a squad depleted by the departures of Habib Beye, Abdoulaye Faye, Geremi and Obafemi Martins for the African Nations Cup in the winter transfer window.

Redknapp had reportedly been offered a £20million kitty, but Allardyce admitted as he planned his own recruitment drive that the best signings will be made during the first two weeks of the month.

The former Bolton boss returned to the club's training ground yesterday to say his goodbyes to the players before they set off for this evening's Barclays Premier League clash with Manchester United.

They will run out at Old Trafford themselves not knowing what the future holds as the turmoil goes on.

By contrast, Redknapp will head for the dug-out at the Stadium of Light tomorrow still wearing Pompey colours, and he is likely to be greeted as warmly by the Sunderland fans as by those of his own club as they revel in their arch-rivals' discomfort.