Phil Brown will be sacked by Hull City early next week unless he can engineer a comprehensive victory for his side in tomorrow's league match at Burnley.
The manager's future at the struggling club was a subject the man himself was reluctant to discuss yesterday, instead preferring to deal with on-field matters but it looks increasingly like the match at Turf Moor will be his last in charge. Adam Pearson is due to return as chairman on Monday after Paul Duffen stood down yesterday and his first job is set to be the removal of Brown, in the belief the manager has taken the club as far as he can. Duffen, walked away from Hull City at the request of Russell Bartlett, the club's owner.
Bartlett held a meeting with Brown on Wednesday to tell him he would be in charge at Turf Moor but also expressed his concerns and left his manager in little doubt that the future looks bleak should he not oversee an immediate upturn in results.
Defeat at Burnley, where Hull have lost on five of their last six visits, will herald a change in manager in an effort to halt a lingering decline that has set in since the club sat third in the Premier League 12 months ago.
Despite insisting that his players are "a million per cent" behind him, Brown appears to be fighting a losing battle in the wake of Duffen's hasty exit. The departed chairman, who was part of the consortium including Bartlett that bought the club from Pearson in 2007, was a powerful ally to Brown and, despite the club winning just three times in the League in 2009, had backed his close friend.
That faith is understood to have been reiterated to Bartlett earlier this week, but it now means little, Duffen having paid the price for the club's poor form and financial difficulties. According to accountants Deloitte, relegation would see Hull, who are third from bottom in the Premier League, needing to generate in the region of £23m just to meet existing liabilities.
Brown, appointed in January 2007 under Pearson's previous regime, could earn a brief stay of execution should Hull achieve a positive result on Saturday, although as the club have taken just one point from five away games this season, the portents do not look good.
Duffen's departure has left Brown exposed, with Paul Jewell favourite to succeed the manager after bookmakers suspended betting on the 50-year-old being relieved of his duties. Asked whether his fate rested on the 11 players he sends out on Saturday, Brown said: "A manager always relies on results and we've got four points from the last three games. If we can get something from the Burnley game that will be a good return for October. It's been a big month and so far it's been fairly successful. The players are one million per cent behind me and, hopefully, that will show on Saturday."
Brown insisted that Duffen's departure was sealed by matters off the field, rather than on it, and added: "The support of Paul Duffen was there for everybody to see, but that's gone. What is around the corner you can only guess, and only time will tell who his replacement is. I don't think it was on results, I think it was on the business side. It's difficult to separate the two, but you do tend to run a business as well as a football club."
Brown said Duffen's departure took him by surprise: "The game is about change. Nobody saw Paul's resignation coming, but it's happened. Whenever you pick up a newspaper, it's speculation about my position, Paul's position, or Hull City in general, but I keep looking at that table and we're still in the Premier League. I've responded to every challenge that's been thrown at me and I'll continue to do that."
Pearson's return after the 45-year-old parted company with Derby County is expected be sealed today.
"The buck has to stop somewhere," Duffen said. "It was my responsibility to oversee transfers. Results have been disappointing. I had talks with my fellow directors and we decided that to give the club the best chance it was a good idea for me to step aside."