Sam Allardyce's position at Newcastle United remains in the balance.

The Mirror says Toon owner Mike Ashley is privately keeping his options open, and has secretly explored the alternatives available to him.

Ashley is known to want to inject a Kevin Keegan-style lift at his club, something Allardyce has failed miserably to deliver.

And he knows that only man who can produce that, and a boost in mood and merchandising sales, is past skipper Alan Shearer. Informal talks were held with Shearer earlier in the season about his plans for the future and his ambassadorial role.

So far he has not been ready to enter club management, but has admitted he wants to boss Newcastle one day.

Jose Mourinho was sounded out - unsuccessfully - when he quit Chelsea, but couldn't take another job in the Premiership. Martin Jol, sacked by Spurs, and Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp have also caught Ashley's eye.