With it looking increasingly likely that Steve McClaren will be sacked as Newcastle head coach, the Magpies find themselves in a precarious position with ten games remaining. 19th in the league, they face table-toppers Leicester City on Monday before huge games against Sunderland and Norwich - the two sides above them.
Newcastle's recent 18-day break would have been the perfect time to sack a man who is clearly out of his depth and has lost the respect of his players. However, reports at the time said McClaren had two games to save his job - he lost both.
In fact, Saturday's home defeat to Bournemouth was a new low for a club that strives to reach new ones, showing just how far Newcastle have fallen under Mike Ashley's regime. A once great club, they're simply a soulless, sleepwalking branch of Sports Direct.
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However, reports have gathered pace that McClaren will finally be relieved of his duties, as club officials realise this is their last chance to escape relegation. Although it's uncharacteristic for Ashley to react like this, he's showing the same panic that caused him to spend £80 million in two transfer windows. It's all from the same mindset - Newcastle simply cannot miss out on next season's new Premier League television deal.
It's becoming clear that Ashley can either have Steve McClaren or top flight football - both is impossible. That's why board members met in York on Monday to discuss McClaren's end game, although the 54-year-old still took Tuesday's training session.
They're taking their time and dragging the process out, which is frustrating fans, but it is believed that no announcement will be made until a replacement has been found. With that in mind, here are the five leading candidates:
On the surface this is a completely unrealistic target - a world class manager who was at Real Madrid just two months ago. Why would he go from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to Paul Dummett and Jack Colback? Well reports say he'd actually be open to the job as he's eager for a Premier League return, shown by an alleged desire to take over at West Ham last summer. Whilst an incentivised ten-game reign could appeal to the Spaniard, his reputation doesn't need boosting and he doesn't really need this. But he's without doubt the best candidate if Ashley is willing to break the bank for survival.
Unemployed and eager, it's already known that Ashley is an admirer of Moyes from his Everton days. Although his spells at Manchester United and Real Sociedad went poorly, his stock is still high and seems like the most realistic man to take charge, whether it's temporary or beyond the ten games. Like Benitez, he should be able to command the players' respect - a squad that only plays for who they like. It's a disgraceful attitude but, right now, it just needs to be accepted as everyone unites to escape relegation.
Not exactly a popular choice, it is feared that Redknapp is the easy option for Ashley. The 69-year-old has relegated QPR and Southampton in recent times and turned down a Newcastle approach in 2008. He'll certainly make some noise, which is needed, and could be accepted as a quick-fix if there's a long-term plan for the summer. But it's no guarantee he'd save this talented set of individuals.
Perhaps more of a summer move, should Newcastle stay up, Rodgers' career has been hit and miss. Things went sour at Liverpool and doubters say he was carried to second place by Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. But he's a talented coach who clearly has a lot of self-belief he can project onto the Magpies' squad.
Although the narrative of Pearson's first game in charge being a chance to dent 'his' Leicester side's title chances is delicious, he's a distant option to take the hot seat. He was assistant manager on Tyneside when Ashley first took ownership in 2007 and left to take charge at Southampton. His prickly personality could go either way with this squad - will he command their respect? And although he gets credit for Leicester's magnificent end to the 2014-15 season, they were bottom for a long time. If Ashley chooses the risky Pearson route, it won't go down well but his great escape is still fresh in people's minds. He's the only one of the five who has managed this.
Who should replace McClaren as Newcastle manager? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!
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