MIKE ASHLEY is poised to take Newcastle United off the market this week after admitting defeat in his bid to offload the club.

Staff at St James’ Park have been told to report for work at 9am sharp this morning although reports that Ashley will make an announcement today could be premature.

Rumours that Alan Shearer had quit his role with the BBC ahead of a return to the St James’ Park manager’s office spread like wildfire around Crystal Palace on Saturday, but there is no evidence to suggest a return to the club is imminent.

By 10.20pm on Saturday evening, Shearer was offering his trademark insight to the Match of the Day audience.

Caretaker boss Chris Hughton on the other hand, is pressing his claim to be given the job on a permanent basis after overseeing three consecutive victories without conceding.

Calls for the caretaker manager to be given the job fulltime are becoming louder with Ryan Taylor echoing Shola Ameobi and Danny Guthrie’s support for the stand-in boss.

Even the usually guarded Hughton declared his desire to secure the job. After hinting he was happy to remain in control after last week’s win over Sheffield Wednesday, at Selhurst Park he made no bones about the fact that he wants to continue what he has started this season.

Asked, if the board offered him the job, would he take it?

he replied: “Yes I would,” before adding: “If the club is not sold they will of course make a decision on who they want as manager.

“I’m certainly very happy to do that job for as long as they want. Management is something that has always interested me. At the moment it’s a very nice feeling.

“But when you’re winning football matches we keep talking about the Monday morning feeling, when there’s a spring in everybody’s step after you’ve won the game at the weekend. It’s nice to have as many of them as possible.”

How many of his players will be on the training pitch after the transfer window closes next Tuesday at 5pm depends on Ashley’s desire to further cut costs.

The sale of any more players could undermine Newcastle’s promotion bid and the mooted departure of Steven Taylor to Everton this week would further infuriate fans who’ve seen Habib Beye and Damien Duff leave in the past fortnight.

Joey Barton, Nicky Butt, Jonas Gutierrez and Fabricio Coloccini have also been linked with moves.

The news that Ashley will retain ownership of Newcastle for the foreseeable future will not receive a positive response from the majority of supporters who continue to lay the blame of last season’s relegation firmly at his door.

But calling a halt to his search for a buyer will at least end the uncertainty that has dogged Newcastle all summer.

And Ashley’s continued presence on Tyneside will not be sufficient to puncture the feelgood atmosphere that has returned to Newcastle following their impressive start to life in the Championship.

Positive results on the pitch have bought Ashley time and prompted him to consider that his interests would be best served if he remains in charge and rebuilds the club’s value by overseeing its return to the Premier League, rather than selling at a reduced price now.

Barry Moat, the leading contender to take control of the club, is struggling to put together a package that would meet Ashley’s £100m asking price but an eleventh hour bid from the Tyneside businessman remains a possibility.

Moat, an associate of both Shearer, Ashley and Derek Llambias, the managing director, has also been linked with a role at the club even if he is unable to raise the money to complete his proposed takeover.