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By ESPN Staff

Shearer not thinking about the drop

Alan Shearer has refused even to contemplate the prospect of relegation as he prepares for a final-day showdown with Aston Villa.

Newcastle United will run out at Villa Park on Sunday knowing defeat will send them back into the Football League after 16 years, while even a draw or a victory would not be enough to keep them up should Hull match their result at home to Manchester United.

The implications would be massive for a club which twice finished as Premier League runners-up during the 1990s.

However, Shearer, who will be kept fully informed of developments elsewhere in the dug-out, remains convinced they will retain their top-flight status, and will not countenance the alternative.

He said: "No. I can't, I won't think about that. I will be as positive as possible and my players will be, and we will see what happens."

Shearer, of course, is a legend on Tyneside after giving 10 years service and a record 206 goals to his hometown club, and no one would feel the pain of relegation any more acutely than him.

He played in huge games for the Magpies - the FA Cup Finals of 1998 and 1999 and the UEFA Cup semi-final in 2004 among them - but he admits preparations for them were in complete contrast to what he has gone through this week.

Shearer said: "It doesn't compare, it is totally different.

"It's a massive game. We all know the stakes, we all know what we are playing for, but I still believe, I really do."

Shearer's task has not been helped by a continuing selection crisis which had already robbed him of suspended duo Sebastien Bassong and Joey Barton, but which has now claimed his only specialist right-back, Habib Beye, through injury.

Left-back Jose Enrique could be fit after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury, but the manager could have to turn to the likes of David Edgar, Ryan Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini as he attempts to find the men to join Steven Taylor at the back, where midfielder Damien Duff has performed well on an emergency basis in recent weeks.

The lack of depth in the Magpies' squad will be only one of the issues which will need to be addressed during the summer - although relegation would have major implications on recruitment - and Shearer knows however things eventually turn out, a detailed post-mortem will be required after a desperate campaign.

He said: "Whatever happens, we have to look at what has gone right and what has gone wrong this season, and people will do that after the season, I know that.

"We will look and will pick the bones out of everything that as gone on.

"We will look at that on Monday morning - hopefully with Newcastle still being a Premier League football club."

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