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BREAKING NEWS: McClaren sacked as Newcastle boss

Newcastle United have sacked Steve McClaren after just nine months in the post.

The dismissal had been widely expected following Saturday's shambolic 3-1 defeat at home to AFC Bournemouth which left the Magpies languishing in the Premier League relegation zone, a point adrift of safety.

Rafael Benitez is the overwhelming favourite to succeed McClaren at St James' Park with reports in Spain suggesting the former Real Madrid coach has agreed a three-year deal following talks this week.

A statement from Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley read: "After the defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday the club has spent some time considering its position and has today concluded that Steve McClaren's employment with the club will end with immediate effect.

"We acknowledge that reaching this decision has taken a number of days and that this has caused uncertainty for everyone involved, in particular for Steve and the players, for which we apologise. However we felt that this time was necessary to ensure the right decisions were reached with the best interests of the club at heart.

"I would like to thank Steve personally for his services to Newcastle United. He is a man of integrity and class and he has conducted himself with great dignity during this difficult time.

"Steve worked tirelessly to try and bring success to Newcastle United. He has the utmost respect of all the players, staff and management and he leaves with our very best wishes and sincere thanks.

"We feel that a change is now needed in order to give the club the best possible chance of securing its Premier League future.

"A further announcement on a successor to Steve will be made in due course."

McClaren was appointed head coach in June 2015, shortly after being dismissed by Championship side Derby County, and was also given a place on the board. His first Premier League win did not come until the ninth game, a 6-2 victory over Norwich City, but that was followed a week later by a 3-0 thrashing at bitter rivals Sunderland.

The club spent heavily in the off-season on Georginio Wijnaldum, Chancel Mbemba and Aleksandar Mitrovic and again in January – no club in Europe spent more in the latest transfer window – on the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend and Henri Saivet, but results have remained disappointing, culminating in the defeat to Bournemouth.

The build-up to that game was dominated by newspaper reports suggesting the club's players had lost faith in McClaren, who had an angry exchange with a journalist when responding to the claims last Friday.

Newcastle's players released a statement prior to the weekend clash with Eddie Howe's men, insisting they remained behind McClaren, but an own goal from Steven Taylor and efforts from Josh King and Charlie Daniels ultimately sealed the former England manager's fate amid a toxic atmosphere at St James' Park.