On a day of extraordinary contradiction, even by Tyneside's standards, Sam Allardyce was sacked as manager of Newcastle United yesterday afternoon and into the river of speculation that runs through this football-daft city immediately waded the names of Jose Mourinho, Alan Shearer and Harry Redknapp.
Dismissed by Chelsea earlier this season, Mourinho has a clause in his severance contract that demands compensation – possibly over £10m – a fee that needs to be met for him to work again at club level in England before next season. But a man of the Newcastle owner Mike Ashley's assets can cope with that.
Ironically, Newcastle were the first club to offer Mourinho a job, when Sir Bobby Robson tried to recruit the Portuguese to be his assistant and eventual successor.
Ashley's deep pockets would need to fund a Mourinho regime, however. But, given that he appears to have found around £7m to pay off the remaining two and a half seasons of Allardyce's Newcastle contract, the billionaire from Hertfordshire would not hesitate at that.
It would seem Ashley and the Newcastle chairman, Chris Mort, have some pre-prepared plan, though they disguised it well. What is being said privately is that the new manager will not be Alan Shearer. Ashley wants experience, and it is said, excitement – and there was a strong rumour regarding Redknapp in October.
Ultimately, all those supporter complaints about Allardyce's style mattered. They reached a climax over Christmas, but Sunday's goalless draw at Stoke City in the FA Cup was seen as resilient if not flamboyant.
Allardyce was buoyed by it, as were senior players who hoped that a corner might have been turned. Previously there had been private exasperation at Allardyce's methodology and, while there were denials publicly, there is no question Allardyce's style – not solely in football – lost him some of the dressing room.
Yet yesterday the atmosphere felt brighter. Barely two hours after completing a series of press interviews in which Allardyce talked of future player recruitment and of Saturday's game at Manchester United – and one week after Mort let it be known that Allardyce was at the club for the mid-term at least – Allardyce was driven to St James' Park to be informed he was leaving his post seven months and 25 days after he was appointed.
The 53 year-old former Bolton manager has not enjoyed his period at the club. As with previous managers – notably Graeme Souness, who compared it to a Latin American country – Allardyce struggled to come to terms with the sheer intensity of every day.
Rarely has he looked comfortable, aside from the season's opening day victory at Bolton, and he was peeved that the following week's 0-0 draw at home to Aston Villa was met with such a lack of enthusiasm. But yesterday, as he spoke of sending coaches down to see Joey Barton in his Hampshire clinic and of the game at Old Trafford, Allardyce was as chirpy as most have seen him.
He clearly did not know what was about to happen. Having finished his press interviews, Allardyce was taken to St James' for what he expected would be a meeting about the January transfer window. He left the training ground at Benton at 3.10pm and was at St James' 15 minutes later.
There he met Mort and within an hour Tyneside was buzzing with rumour that Allardyce had gone. After another hour, there was unofficial confirmation and then a statement that read: "Newcastle United has today parted company with Sam Allardyce as its manager with immediate effect. This decision has been reached by mutual agreement. Newcastle United chairman Chris Mort said: 'Mike and I would like to place on record our thanks for Sam's efforts and wish him well for the future. A new manager has not yet been appointed at Newcastle United. We will make a further announcement on the managerial position when appropriate.'
"Sam Allardyce said: 'I am disappointed to be leaving Newcastle United but I wish the club all the best for the remainder of the season and for the future.'
"First-team coach Nigel Pearson will take charge of the team for Saturday's game."
Bemused Newcastle fans – some happy, some not – will have noted that Old Trafford is where the club went after Newcastle had sacked Ruud Gullit in 1999.
As with Allardyce yesterday, that dismissal was bandaged up in football parlance to be "mutual consent" but no manager of Allardyce's experience, or ego, would wish to be seen as such a dramatic failure that departure was the only course of change.
If there was a particular incident in the past week that sparked yesterday's drama, it remains to be seen, but if it was the general accumulation of dissatisfaction. then those humiliating home defeats to Portsmouth in November had an impact.
Wigan on Boxing Day also surely mattered. That was when the travelling 5,000 fans turned vocally as one and sang: "We're shit and we're sick of it." As an epitaph for Allardyce's brief tenure at Newcastle it may not be particularly polite, but the fans may have done more than express frustration that seeps back decades that day. Ashley was among them and may have been convinced there and then that something had to give and that it was Allardyce.
Leaving Toon: Recent managers
1992-97 Kevin Keegan (resigned)
1997-98 Kenny Dalglish (sacked)
1998-99 Ruud Gullit (sacked)
1999-2004 Bobby Robson (sacked)
2004-06 Graeme Souness (sacked)
2006-07 Glenn Roeder (mutual consent)
2007-2008 Sam Allardyce (mutual consent)
In the frame to take over
In 10 years on Tyneside as a player, Shearer, 37, attained legendary status and has long been touted as a potential Newcastle manager. He may lack experience but he knows the club.
Odds: 4-6 fav (Ladbrokes)
The Dutchman was a popular figure at Tottenham right up to his sacking in October, and he led a Spurs revival. The chance to try his luck again would surely be too tempting for Jol to reject.
The "Special One" is a long shot but has all the credentials required to end the Toon's wait for silverware.
In his only managerial job, the former striker led Germany to the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup. He would bring fresh ideas and his reputation would guarantee respect.
His stock may still be low following his failure to guide England to Euro 2008, but he remains one of the best English coaches.
The Italian's track record is second to none with the 2006 World Cup, the Champions League and Serie A titles on his CV.
Odds: 10-1Reuse content