Steve McClaren’s battling to save his job at Newcastle United.
The club slipped back into the relegation zone after Saturday’s 5-1 defeat to Chelsea.
And there have been calls for McClaren to be sacked in the wake of his team’s abject performance at Stamford Bridge.
But head coach McClaren is safe in his post – for now.
However, the 54-year-old, appointed as head coach last summer, knows a defeat to Stoke City on March 2 could spell the end of his career at St James’s Park.
McClaren and his beleaguered players will tomorrow head to La Manga, Spain, for a training camp and a friendly against Lillestrom on Saturday.
The club hope to have a number of players, including Chancel Mbemba and Siem de Jong, back from injury for the Stoke fixture.
And McClaren’s future now seemingly rests on the work he does – and the response of his players – between now and the club’s visit to the Britannia Stadium.
“We knew this period was coming, and we’ve planned for it,” said McClaren.
“We hope to be in a better condition – mentally and physically – in 18 days time.
“We didn’t deal with the ball very well, and usually we have a team of footballers who can deal with the ball.
“They didn’t – they gave the ball away too many times, and then it’s difficult to recover back into shape. They punished us because we didn’t deal with the ball and handle it as well as we should have done.
“That’s why we are where we are – we’re inconsistent.
“There’s a lot of games where we’ve kind of performed but not scored goals.
“But we’re losing games because we’re not scoring enough goals and we’re not keeping clean sheets. We have to somehow solve that.”
Third-bottom Newcastle are level on points with 17th-placed Norwich City and a point ahead of Sunderland.
Meanwhile, Georginio Wijnaldum says his half-time withdrawal against Chelsea left him baffled.
Wijnaldum was replaced by Jack Colback at Stamford Bridge, where Steve McClaren’s relegation-threatened side were hammered 5-1.
The club’s leading scorer has performed better at St Jame’s Park this season, with all his nine goals having come on home turf.
Asked if his substitution was a “tactical” measure, midfielder Wijnaldum said: “I don’t know, this is something you must ask the manager.
“I think it’s his job to answer this question, and not mine.”