Newcastle’s wait for Rafael Benitez to give them an answer could extend into next week, reports have claimed.
The 56-year-old is making all the right noises as he edges towards opting to stay at St James’ Park and lead the fight for promotion back to the Barclays Premier League, after coming up short in his 10-game mission to spare the club from the drop.
However, despite his interest in what is on the table after holding talks with owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley over the last week, the door remains open for another opportunity to come his way.
Benitez, who has been overwhelmed by a swell of public support, is understood to have sought a series of assurances in those talks and has been encouraged by what he has heard in response, to the point where he has already cast a glance over a series of potential transfer targets.
But there was an acceptance on his arrival that the break-clause negotiated in his three-year contract would almost certainly be activated in the event of relegation and while club officials remain cautiously optimistic, formal agreement is yet to be reached and discussions are ongoing.
In the circumstances, the Magpies will not rush the Spaniard for an answer and risk forcing his hand in the wrong direction, but will hope their willingness to give him as much as they can of what he wants will prove decisive.
Ashley and Charnley are in the process of analysing exactly what went wrong last season – and that cannot be pretty, with Benitez’s appointment in the first place the result of failures both in the boardroom and on the pitch.
But it appears Charnley will be given the chance to right the wrongs of a dreadful 18 months or so since Alan Pardew’s departure threw the club into a tailspin from which it has never regained control.
Should Benitez agree to remain at the helm, Newcastle will start afresh having abandoned the head coach model and returned control to the manager, although reports of chief scout Graham Carr’s impending departure are yet to be confirmed.
It is inevitable that some of the bigger names within the squad will leave, either of their own volition or in an effort to balance the books and fund a rebuilding exercise, but there is a belief on Tyneside that the retention of the bulk of the better players, coupled with astute additions, could provide the platform for an immediate return to the big time.
That is exactly what happened seven years ago after the club slipped out of the top flight, although on that occasion, caretaker Chris Hughton was left reluctantly holding the baby and not a manager with an international reputation and proven track record for winning trophies.