Steven Gerrard rejects Mike Ashley's offer to take over at Newcastle United

Hibernian v Rangers - Scottish Ladbrokes Premiership

Who in their right mind is going to take over at Newcastle United? 

Blunt though it may be, that is the serious question Mike Ashley is going to have to contend with in the coming weeks. 

The Magpies' first-team squad have now returned to pre-season training but are without a head coach after Rafael Benitez's contract expired on June 30. 

The Spaniard was quickly appointed at Chinese Super League outfit Dalian Yifang and oversaw a 3-1 victory against Henan Jianye in his first game in charge.

Since his departure from St James' Park, Benitez has spoken fairly openly about the difficulties he faced working under Ashley.

One anecdote just about summed it up. 

"When I came to Newcastle, they gave me the plans for the new training ground, I was talking to the architect about changing a few things," he was quoted by the Chronicle. 

"And after three years they painted the walls."

Attention now turns to who will replace the immensely popular boss who did more to unite the fans than any other manager since Sir Bobby Robson. 

Roberto Martinez and Mikel Arteta are two of the leading candidates, but according to the Mirror, Ashley has already been rejected by two of his preferred options. 

The newspaper report that Steven Gerrard has rebuffed the billionaire's advances and opted to stay with Rangers. 

The 39-year-old has impressed in Scottish football and is looking forward to another chance to close the gap on Celtic. 

Rangers v Oxford United - Pre Season Friendly

Ashley was aware that luring the Liverpool legend to the north-east was going to be difficult - not least because of his relationship with Benitez - yet he hoped the chance to manage in the Premier League would be enough to convince him. 

Newcastle's approach has not gone down well in Glasgow.

Not only are the club keen to retain Gerrard, there is already a lot of bad blood with Ashley.

It was only last year that they tried to sue him and his company, Sports Direct, over a merchandising row. 

So, if not Gerrard, then who? Nice manager Patrick Vieira has also said no, per the same source. 

No wonder Newcastle fans are giving up their season tickets in droves. 

Who should be the next Newcastle manager? Have your say in the comments.

News Now - Sport News