Today is the day that most Newcastle United fans have been waiting for – as it looks all but certain that Steve McClraren will join the ranks of the unemployed within the coming hours.
The 54-year-old former England manager is set for more showdown talks with the club today amid strong speculation that this day will be his last at St. James’s Park. It has been painfully dragged out, but it seems he will be finally put out of his misery within the next 24 hours.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) March 10, 2016
McClaren has overseen a wretched season in which Newcastle have won just six Premier League games all year and look all but doomed to relegation – especially while he remains the head coach.
The Newcastle fans have been apoplectic lately, and a limp 3-1 defeat at home to Bournemouth was seen as the final straw by just about everyone associated with the club. The thundering force of anger is gaining traction in just about every corner of the fanbase – for all intents and purposes, McClaren’s position is untenable.
Once the unpleasant business of firing the current manager is out of the way, however, Newcastle have their gaze locked firmly on one man to replace him.
Rafa Benítez, currently looking for work following a predictably brief spell in charge of Real Madrid, has been identified by the Newcastle board as the man they want to bring in to save their season.
The 55-year-old carries with him a wealth of experience, having won the Champions League and two UEFA Cup/Europa League titles among others, and would represent the biggest and most popular appointment Newcastle have made since they recruited Bobby Robson in 1999 (with the possible exception of Kevin Keegan’s ill-fated return in 2008).
Trophies won by Rafa Benitez as a coach: pic.twitter.com/8XgZCx5K29
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@viRonaldo7) August 12, 2015
Spanish radio station Cadena Cope were last night reporting that talks were so advanced between the parties that not only had Mike Ashley offered the Spaniard a three year deal, but that it had already been accepted.
— NUFC 360 (@NUFC360) March 9, 2016
Talks have progressed to the point where Newcastle want Benítez in the dugout for Monday night’s trip to league leaders Leicester City, so an announcement on an appointment could be carried out reasonably soon.
However, as nothing is ever straightforward with Newcastle, there is a catch.
Benítez has apparently agreed the deal, but retains the right to walk away from the club if he is not able to save them from relegation in their final ten games. He has no interest in managing in the second tier of English football, but would apparently be keen to build up one of the country’s best supported clubs should they retain their Premier League status this summer.
There will undoubtedly be more to come from this story within the coming hours and days – but, for now at least, it looks almost certain that Rafa Benítez is on his way back to the Premier League.