Newcastle United today decided not to allow Thursday’s scheduled press conference to go ahead. This is the clearest indication yet that that the club’s hierarchy, potentially Lee Charnley aside, have lost total confidence in the manager.
It is now just a waiting game. Steve McClaren surely cannot be the manager for much further than this weekend? Everyone knows his time is up. The experiment failed, yet the United board still feel the need to leave the former England boss in limbo. His treatment by the club has been a little bit suspect the last few days, no matter how poor his team have been on the pitch. It's a cruel way to treat a man of such standing.
It appears obvious that the club are waiting to have their replacement fully lined up before announcing McClaren’s departure, and there appears to be two men leading the charge.
Both Rafa Benitez (2.00) and David Moyes (2.25) have been heavily linked with the apparently imminent vacancy in the north-east but it seems baffling that two men with such great pedigrees and experience would want to take the job.
Benitez is the man who has been all over the back pages this morning, so let’s start with him. Undoubtedly he ticks all the right boxes. He is a coach who bases his game on tactical organisation, getting the best out of players and ensuring defences don’t concede goals. All things McClaren has failed woefully at in his tenure.
When the Spaniard came into Chelsea back in November 2012 he found a side bereft of confidence but somehow came up with a formula that saw them lose just four of the 26 league matches he oversaw, keeping 10 clean sheets in the process and leading them to a fairly useful third place finish.
Now, Newcastle do not have the quality that the Blues possessed but this is a man who won the Champions League final with the likes of Djimi Traore, Vladimir Smicer and Milan Baros – hardly world beaters.
He ticks all the boxes for the Toon but the only one they seem to tick for him is the fact they reside in England. He has never made any secret of his desire to coach in this country but it seems baffling that a man who has a cabinet full of medals and a superb reputation would want to take on a position where the probability of him being relegated looks seriously high.
If Rafa has any sense, he will steer clear.
The same can be said for David Moyes. Whether you think he was given a fair crack at Old Trafford or not it seriously eroded some of his credibility. He attempted to gather some of that back by taking a job in Spain, but his failure to grasp La Ligia has only served to heighten people’s desire to laugh at the once well respected Scot.
The ex-Everton boss is a fine manager, and will hopefully prove that once again on these shores, but if he were to take the Newcastle job it has the potenital to end his chances of taking on an upwardly mobile or big Premier League club in the future.
Moyes’ next move is probably the biggest of his career and the potential of adding a relegation to his CV means this is a role that shouldn’t entice him away from the sofa any time soon.
The next appointment for the Magpies has all the making of an interim one, which may stir up the heady days of a rambunctious Joe Kinnear in the minds of Newcastle fans. A man, not too dissimilar to the former Wimbledon manager in his eccentricities and intimidating manner is Nigel Pearson.
Worryingly, and as an individual with Newcastle leanings I can’t believe I am writing this, he could be the man to save the Toon Army from imminent doom.
The first, and perhaps most important factor, is that he would probably take the job until the end of the season. Something that it seems unlikely that the two men mentioned previously would be willing to do.
In terms of his managerial style, it may be just what the club needs.
He is the polar opposite of McClaren, who has clearly been taking notes from Roberto Martinez in selling his team’s negative displays as positive. That is not what the supporters need to hear at the moment and that laissez-faire attitude of ‘we were unlucky’ seems to have filtered into the players, many of whom don’t appear to be wary of the fact that they could be about to break the hearts of the some of the most passionate fans in the country.
Pearson would arrive all guns blazing and would no doubt dish out some home truth. You can’t help but feel that is something that is desperately needed at St James’ Park. It sounds simplistic but Newcastle fans would take anything resembling passion and effort above what they are seeing now.
At the risk of sounding all ‘rule Britannia’, the core of the side is made up of British players, many of whom would most likely thrive under the stewardship of a more ‘old school’ or ‘old fashioned’ manager.
Throw in the fact that he been at the club and acted as a caretaker manager in the past and he looks the best grape of a pretty bad bunch. Pearson will not be a popular appointment, of course the supporters will want (and deserve) a bigger name, but he might be the right one. The failure to remove the struggling McClaren earlier has left the board's hands tied, and they are to blame.
One thing that should be made clear, is that if Pearson was given the job and did keep the team in the top-flight, he should not be left at the helm next term. If that is the case then no doubt the club will be in this position again in 12 months time. The summer would be the time to turn to the aforementioned bigger names.
Granted, this is not long termism, it is not what the supporters want to hear and it is hardly the best way to run a football club. But this is a football club whose supporters deserve Premier League football and dancing with the draconian devil, or in this case ostrich, may be the only feasible option.