As Newcastle United continue their search for a new manager, the new chapter of this historic club is caught between hope and anxiety. The Magpies remain 19th in the Premier League and without a win, knowing full well that their future cannot be imagined if they remain in a dreary present. For Alan Shearer, the next manager who comes in, and Paulo Fonseca is the leading candidate, needs to understand the gravity of the situation.
"Newcastle are in a huge relegation battle, they're in the bottom three, they haven't won all season…but whoever comes in, they will realize that the size of the club and the expectations in terms of getting players to fight, to scrap, to work, and play on the front foot and get victories and drag Newcastle out somehow out of the bottom three, that's what matters to begin with," says Shearer, speaking exclusively to !Qué Golazo! and CBS Sports.
"We know the new owners are wealthy and have huge ambitions which is something different to what Newcastle fans have been used to because for the last 14 years the club has been flatlining, there's been no communication with fans. In fact...there has been more communication with the fans in the last 10 days than in the previous 14 years."
Shearer, the Premier League's all-time scorer, who is the only player in the league to score 100+ goals for two clubs (Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United) spent 10 years with Newcastle after winning his first title with Blackburn under Kenny Dalglish, and scored 148 goals between 1996 and 2006.
He knows this club and the city better than most and understands what it takes to succeed at Newcastle, and the proverbial mountain they are currently climbing.
"In Newcastle, they work hard all week - the fans - to spend their money at the weekend and have a good time, to be entertained...and they do want a bit of hope and excitement, and now they got that for once."
So what will it take for Newcastle United this season? What do they need this January?
"I expect some action...and if that wasn't to happen then Newcastle would be in big trouble," says Shearer. "The owners have said they're ambitious, they have money to spend, but Newcastle fans and all of us pundits, ex-players, will have to be very patient. It's just not going to happen overnight. In a month or a year, it's going to take a long time and it will be small steps."
Shearer knows they can't bring in world class players immediately, it will take time, so for him, January is about strengthening the spine of the team and making sure that at the very least, Newcastle are able to fortify areas of the pitch that always require quality. "Defensively we've been very poor, we have conceded lots of goals...only Norwich are alongside...so it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out what they need. They need a defender or two."
Add a creative, center midfielder and another forward due to Callum Wilson's injury record and that would be a positive transfer window for the Toon Army.
Players, aside, Shearer is concerned with this very fact. Newcastle are in a relegation battle and they need to get out of it. Nothing else is more important.
"As we speak here, without a doubt, Newcastle United are in a relegation battle," says Shearer. "We haven't won all season. So that's without a doubt a concern and that has to be the priority for anyone who ever comes into the football club. Whether that's new players in January or whether that's the new manager this week or whenever that may be. It's live, it's current but I am optimistic…"
If optimism indeed turns into reality, then what does the future hold for Newcastle? Where does Shearer see the club in five years?
"If I'm talking dream land, then I see them challenging for the Premier League," says Shearer. "If I'm talking realistically, it might take them a bit longer than that. We're talking about some giants of English football - Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man Utd - who all have funds to compete. I was part of a Blackburn side that under Jack Walker had financial clout and within three years won the Premier League. I don't see that happening with Newcastle, I see it taking longer because the threat of other clubs is more than it was in 94 and 95 when we actually won it. We'll have to be patient about seeing Newcastle win trophies, but the Newcastle fans won't mind that at all because they've had no hope or excitement for 14 years. So this is all new to them, a whole generation of fans will have only known the Ashley times, the Ashley era of the last 14 years. So for them to be talking about a bigger and better Newcastle is a new thing. It will come, I have no doubt about it, it will come, but we might just have to be a little bit patient."
Back to a manager's role and connecting it to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's struggles at Manchester United and his own experiences managing a big club (Shearer took over eight matches for Newcastle in April 2009 before they were eventually relegated), one that made you a legend, Shearer sees the job of a head coach through the eyes of a former player, but in the end, the job - as Solskjer is discovering - is frustratingly simple. "The rules don't change for a former great of a club, you've gotta go out and get results, gotta go out and win trophies," says Shearer. "When that doesn't happen, what you know as a player or a manager or both is that you're under pressure if that doesn't work. The rules of football are simple. Win games, win trophies and you'll stay in the job. If you don't you'll be out of the job...that's the rules, it doesn't change for anyone."
For the full chat, make sure you head over to our !Qué Golazo! Youtube channel.