“Newcastle United have just confessed that the situation is so disastrous that they might as well see whether a jolt of charisma can bring an all but comatose team to life” – Kevin McCarra

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Desperate measures, desperate times. There’s a gap opening up at the bottom of the table and he’ll galvanise all the fans – let’s hope he galvanises the players… When we took Keegan back 20 years ago he always had the knowledge of the game and the players and he had that magic touch. I think Alan’s got the same. He’s been out of the game for a while but he knows the game. I think he’ll be great. I’m absolutely delighted at the news – not at the circumstances, I don’t think he should be judged on these eight games.” – Sir John Hall.

Runner-up: “Look at Michael Owen. He’s got 40 goals in 89 appearances and you’d have said he would be bang on to get 100 caps two or three years ago and that it would be a given that he’d be in every squad when he was fit. But this manager has come in and he sees things from a different angle. If you’re not fit enough, not playing games, or not on form, you won’t get in the squad. And rightly so. You don’t win what the manager’s won by having a lot of sentiment. His approach keeps the hunger in your belly, the desire and the passion.” – Rio Ferdinand.

Today’s overview: Is it an April’s Fools joke? Is Alan Shearer really taking over the top job at Newcastle? Crazy days this Wednesday in the backpages.

According to Matt Lawton, Mike Ashley has promised “Shearer a seven-figure bonus to keep them up” while the former number 9 has “asked another former Newcastle star, Rob Lee, to be his assistant.”

A shocked Oliver Kay attempts to gather his thoughts. Beginning by asking “the question, from Shearer’s point of view, is simple: why now?” Kay goes on to comment “there is no reason whatsoever to assume that Shearer is a great manager in waiting… The presumption is that the club have nothing to lose. It really has got that bad, just as it had by the time Keegan arrived 17 years ago.”

Louise Taylor writes “it seems highly unlikely that Shearer’s appointment will not turn out to be a longer-term deal,” before Taylor comments in a supplementary article that “Shearer’s arrival is very much in the tradition of [Mike] Ashley appointments – in other words a major shock.” Echoing similar sentiments, George Caulkin notes that “Ashley will hope that Shearer’s return will galvanise a club that has been in danger of tearing itself apart.” While the Daily Express fart “Ashley is a gambler at heart and so he has turned to Shearer. This could be the gamble of his lifetime.”

Trying to make sense out of the news, Gabriele Marcotti is able to praise Shearer’s decision. “Whatever else one may think of him, Shearer has shown – once again – that he has balls. Plenty of them. That’s loyalty.  That’s love for a club. You can only admire him for it.”

Kevin McCarra appears unsure whether to laugh or cry. “Were circumstances less desperate at St James’ Park people would laugh at the sheer corniness of Alan Shearer so abruptly becoming manager there. In practice Newcastle United have just confessed that the situation is so disastrous that they might as well see whether a jolt of charisma can bring an all but comatose team to life.” Michael Walker simply reacts by saying, rather than as a manager, “how Newcastle could do with [Shearer] on the pitch.”

Talk then returns to England, who face the Ukraine tonight.

Linking Newcastle and England, Patrick Barclay sticks the book into Little Mickey boasting “even if Michael Owen had played every match for Newcastle United this season and scored in half of them, he would not be England’s man for tonight.” Martin Samuel challenges this opinion, arguing “for all his problems Owen has still scored four times in his last seven starts for England and… the majority would be considerably happier than they are at the prospect of a semi-fit Crouch.”

Staying with England’s strikers Paul Hayward comments, “Crouch is selected to engage the Ukrainian centre-halves and allow Rooney and Gerrard to continue with the sometimes dazzling synchronicity they inflicted on Slovakia in Saturday’s 4–0 win.” Bucking the trend, Sam Wallace sticks up for the skyscraper striker. “Crouch does not look like a goalscorer but that happens to be exactly what he is… Rooney and Steven Gerrard are the undoubted stars in Capello’s side, but Crouch is more than just a support act.”

The battle between Wayne Rooney and Anatoliy Tymoschuk is highlighted by David Pleat. “[Tymoschuk’s] task tonight will be to know exactly when and where to follow Rooney.”

It is left for Kevin Garside to build up expectations. “For good or bad we expect England to put Ukraine away. This is not some sort of mystic yearning but a reasoned conclusion that follows from a premise hammered out over 12 increasingly compelling games by Capello. The defeats to France and Spain serve as reminders of standards required not rebukes.”

Looking at the other World Cup qualifiers, Paolo Bandini suggests that “Sampdoria striker Giampaolo Pazzini could be the biggest threat for the Azzurri against Ireland.” John Duerden looks slightly further afield, commenting on the meeting between North and South Korea – “Excitement off the pitch is welcome, although you don’t want too much between two heavily armed neighbours that are still technically at war.”

The grape-vine is active as usual, with the Independent kicking off the rumours reporting how Schalke have approached Slaven Bilic to become their new manager.

In an offbeat article, Barry Glendenning comments on cash-strapped Valencia’s new revenue drive that has opened “the doors of the Estadio Mestalla to fans for communions and weddings in a bid to generate some much-needed income to cover their outgoings.”

Finally, two lists are worth a gander this Wednesday.