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By Simon Bird, Daily Mirror


FREDDY SHEPHERD is ready to sack Graeme Souness - with Sam Allardyce prime candidate to take charge at St James' Park.


Souness's reign at Newcastle is doomed after Saturday's home defeat by Blackburn and he is expected to meet the chairman today at the Toon training ground. Bolton boss Allardyce is thought to be ready to take the job if it is offered. But in the short term Glenn Roeder and Peter Beardsley are likely to step in as co-caretaker bosses.


Shepherd and vice-chairman Douglas Hall will have to act after fans staged a mass demonstration against Souness on Saturday.


The Newcastle boss won't quit but will be lucky to hold on to his job this week. Only a £3m compensation package, which Shepherd is reluctant to sanction, can temporarily save his skin. Shepherd has signalled his reluctance to turn once again to Bolton boss Allardyce, who rejected the Newcastle job 16 months ago, but Big Sam remains the favourite to succeed Souness.


The mood against Souness is hardening at St James' Park and Allardyce is one of the few candidates who would jump at the chance of filling the Toon hot-seat.


Bolton players fear he is ready to quit the Reebok and have hinted that plans are already afoot for his coaching team to move with him.


Allardyce is frustrated with the lack of money his chairman Phil Gartside has provided to strengthen his squad in the January transfer window. But Gartside will fight to keep his manager if Newcastle make an official approach.


Newcastle have no hope of landing Martin O'Neill in the short term because he is nursing his sick wife.


Geordie legend Alan Shearer wants time out of the game when he quits in the summer to be a BBC pundit.


Dutch coach Guus Hiddink will be a candidate, but will surely have the pick of jobs around Europe after the World Cup.

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