Mark Hughes favourite to replace Rafa Benitez at Newcastle

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 18 January 2018, 12:26

Mark Hughes has only been queuing up outside the Job Centre for 12 days, but the sacked Stoke City boss could already be eyeing up a rapid return to management after bookmakers installed the Welshman as the favourite to replace Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United.

Benitez is, of course, still in charge of the Toon, but for how long?

His future was thrown into doubt on Tuesday night, following the breakdown of Amanda Staveley’s proposed £250million takeover of the North East outfit, with fans fearful that he could now up sticks and walk away from St James’ Park.

Benitez was instantly cut from 10/1 to the 2/1 joint favourite to be the Next Premier League Manager To Leave, although his odds have since drifted a little to 4/1, behind the evens frontrunner Mauricio Pellegrino.

It’s no secret that, just like everyone else, Benitez is becoming increasingly frustrated by the actions of the club’s despised owner Mike Ashley, who barely communicates with the Spaniard, while he refuses to dip into his deep pockets to provide funds for new players - which the Magpies desperately need, all over the park.

Newcastle, promoted as Championship winners under Benitez last season, are dangling dangerously above the dreaded drop zone in 15th. If results don’t go their way over the next couple of weeks then they could well find themselves in the bottom-three come the end of the month, a scenario Benitez will be desperate to avoid.

But, by the time the January Transfer Window slams shut Benitez could well be off.

And who could blame him.

It must be infuriating for a coach of his calibre to work under the brash businessman, who in the last eight years has overseen two relegations to the second-tier.

If this outcome does occur, then Toon fans may not feel too inspired at the presence of Hughes at the top of the Next Newcastle Manager Market at 11/2. Michael O’Neill, who is on the verge of leaving Northern Ireland for Scotland, is next in the running alongside the likes of Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill, and the out-of-work duo of Slaven Bilic and Garry Monk.

Meanwhile, former Toon boss Steve McClaren is a 50/1 shot…

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