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Fantasy follow-up: Week 18

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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

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By ESPN Staff

Houllier gets Newcastle go-ahead

Gerard Houllier has been given the green light by his current employers to succeed Sam Allardyce as Newcastle United manager.

The former Liverpool boss, who is currently the French Football Federation's technical director, has emerged as one of the frontrunners for the vacancy at St James' Park in recent days.

FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalette told the Daily Express: 'I would not stand in Gerard's way if there was something else he wanted to do. I am not surprised he gets offers.

'He turned one or two down to rejoin us and they were better financially than we could offer him.'

Sources on Tyneside have suggested the Houllier's name is on a short-list of candidates to replace Sam Allardyce, and that he could form a partnership with Geordie hero Alan Shearer.

Houllier would certainly fit the profile drawn up by the club in the immediate aftermath of Allardyce's departure last Wednesday evening with his immense experience and proven track record.

However, the city's evening newspaper, the Evening Chronicle, is reporting that he and 37-year-old Shearer, who has never been too far away from the top of the betting in the last week, would be happy to work together.

The former Magpies and England skipper has found himself touted both as the man to take over in his own right, or in partnership with Kevin Keegan, with both options receiving popular support.

But whether Shearer and Keegan, the man who paid Blackburn £15million for his services back in 1996, would be willing to work together seems uncertain.

But the Houllier-Shearer option is one which was received warmly on Tyneside as the news emerged with the prospect of a combination of a high-class manager and a man long touted as a future saviour meeting approval.

Shearer was diplomatic as he arrived back on Tyneside from his holiday in Barbados on Tuesday morning.

Asked if he wanted the Newcastle job, he replied: 'Am I wanting it? One day, hopefully.'

Questioned further about the possibility of him linking up with Keegan, he said: 'I haven't spoken to Kevin for a long time. We will have to see.'

Shearer was not the only significant figure in the Newcastle saga arriving back in the country today with owner Mike Ashley due back from a trip to Hong Kong.

However, in his absence, chairman Chris Mort has continued to work behind the scenes in the wake of Harry Redknapp's withdrawal from the race to succeed Allardyce.

Club insiders insist several candidates are under consideration - Blackburn's Mark Hughes continues to be mentioned - but with a must-win Premier League clash with Bolton to follow Wednesday night's FA Cup third round replay against Stoke, time is of the essence.