The Rebound: SportsDirect Employee Award to decide Rafa replacement

With Newcastle plummeting to the bottom of the league, news reaches us there's a rescue plan in place that could turn things around...

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The Rebound is Paddy Power’s weekly breaking news story that may not actually have happened or be real in any way.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley plans to replace beleaguered boss Rafael Benitez with one of the leading lights from his sports retail business should results not improve soon.

With the SportsDirect annual awards night looming in late November, all eyes will be on who collects the coveted Inspiring Achiever Award at the yearly ceremony as they could ascend to the Geordie hotseat, based on reports.

“A fresh voice and a new vision is what’s required,” a source close to the decision said. “The club needs some radical disruption, real blue-sky thinking, and what’s more outside-the-box than putting someone in a job they’re literally completely unqualified to do? It’s a real paradigm-shift for football.”

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Options are thought to be limited for the St James’ Park board due to the transfer restrictions and tightly managed wage bill at the clubs. Many experienced managers and coaches would be reluctant to take on a task that Champions League winner Benitez could not handle.

And the sportswear magnate, famed for collecting struggling brands and selling products at cut-down prices, is said to have run out of patience with appointments from the footballing world after a series of managers have failed to re-establish the Magpies as a Premier League power.

Now he will turn to the retail space to apply his price-slashing philosophy to the football club. Some Newcastle fans will argue he has done so already, but the Magpies’ race to the bottom of the Premier League means that even more drastic measures are required, according to sources close to the Tyneside club.

Plans are already afoot to deploy members of the first team squad as show room dummies around the club shop – some saying that the Newcastle defence has been practising for this role all season.

And zero-hour contracts could be introduced, with players being paid in accordance with their match performance ratings on Squawka.

But it is the manager’s office that could see the most radical change. Speaking to a senior employee in one SportsDirect outlet thought to be in the running for the award, the news has been well-received.

“Our philosophy is to stack it high and sell it cheap. There’s no reason this can’t be applied to football.”

“I’ve already got several people scouting six-a-side pitches around the country for anyone with a bit about them. Do I really need Kenedy on loan if there’s someone locally who can give the ball away and stand around doing nothing much and I don’t have to pay them? Of course not.”

“I’ve got a mate travelling round the far-east at the moment, he says there’s some great talent out there, we can bring some of them over and make a fortune.”

How this strategy will help Newcastle stay in the Premier League is as yet unclear. The club did not comment when approached.

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