Crisis talks are taking place at Newcastle United with directors debating whether to sack Steve McClaren and whom they might replace him with.
David Moyes’s name is believed to have figured prominently in discussions and Rafa Benítez has previously expressed discreet interest in one of English football’s most challenging posts.
Second bottom in the Premier League and in real danger of relegation, Newcastle suffered a fifth defeat in six games when they lost 3-1 at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.
McClaren has told Lee Charnley, the club’s managing director, he would like a chance to put things right and believes he is still the right man to keep the team in the Premier League but the final decision rests with Mike Ashley, the owner.
Ashley is heavily influenced by Keith Bishop, a London based public relations executive who has long advised the sports retail tycoon and was at St James’ Park to see the surrender against Eddie Howe’s side.
Charnley, who drove McClaren’s appointment as John Carver’s successor last summer, has an interest in the former England coach making an ultimate success of things on Tyneside but, with 10 games remaining, now is probably Newcastle’s last chance to make a managerial change. Should they be relegated, Charnley’s own position would be in severe jeopardy.
If the club are unlikely to be influenced by the St James’ crowd having turned against McClaren, let alone critical media analysis of his tenure, they are mindful that dropping into the Championship would mean losing countless millions in television revenue facilitated by the new top-tier broadcast deal commencing next season.
Many Newcastle fans would like to see Benítez, available after his dismissal by Real Madrid, take charge at Gallowgate. Ashley, though, may find Benítez too challenging for his liking and is said to have a preference for the similarly unemployed Moyes, the former Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad manager. It is understood that he would be extremely interested in any vacancy.
Other potential – and immediately available – candidates include Brendan Rodgers, out of work since parting with Liverpool, and Nigel Pearson, Claudio Ranieri’s predecessor at Leicester. Pearson previously served as assistant manager at St James’ Park under Glenn Roeder and Sam Allardyce but Ashley was said to have admired Rodgers’ work at Anfield.
McClaren, who has two years outstanding on his contract, is adamant he will not resign. Asked if he and the players could come through his present travails, he said: “Absolutely, I don’t give up. I don’t want to give up. I have no self-doubt whatsoever. But the decision is out of my hands, for other people to make.”
Whatever happens he remains confident his underachieving players have the talent to stay up. “I don’t care who the manager is,” he said. “But the club will get out of this.”
Before kick-off against Bournemouth Newcastle’s players issued a statement offering their coach unequivocal support but the board harbour real concerns that a manager who has presided over only nine wins in 43 games at Derby and on Tyneside in the past 12 months lacks genuine dressing-room backing.
A talented, if imbalanced squad, heavily criticised for lack of character and inconsistency by McClaren, are away at Leicester, the leaders, on Monday week but then face two potentially watershed matches against their principal relegation rivals. Sunderland visit St James’ on 20 March before a trip to Norwich immediately after the international break. Guardian