David Moyes sacked: Newcastle or Aston Villa next for former Manchester United manager?
Is David Moyes damaged goods? Yes. Scarred by his nine months at Old Trafford? Probably. Unemployable? Definitely not.
After suffering a similar experience succeeding Sir Matt Busby, Wilf McGuinness managed in Greece, then at York City, but Moyes is unlikely to have to go into exile or the lower leagues.
To most chairmen on a hunt for a manager Moyes' impressive record at Everton and Preston North End will be of more relevance than his Old Trafford nightmare. If you own a mid-table club with European aspirations, but want to achieve it on a tight budget, Moyes would appear to fit the brief. Which means Newcastle owner Mike Ashley could be the first chairman to offer Moyes a route back into the game.
League positions are generally decided by a club's wage bill. For years, on this axis, Everton under Moyes over-performed while Newcastle, under a series of managers, under-performed. The Magpies have cut their wage bill in the last two seasons, but results have suffered and their dreadful second-half to this season leaves Alan Pardew vulnerable.
A big-city club with passionate support and a decent squad Newcastle is likely to appeal to Moyes, especially as Ashley has shown to be a reasonably patient owner - Pardew is the top flight's longest-serving boss after Arsene Wenger.
Aston Villa, though there are uncertainties over the club's ownership, would be another attractive possibility. Other posts that may well be vacant this summer include West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City, West Ham United, Swansea City and Southampton. While Saints are likely to look overseas if Mauricio Pochettino leaves Moyes would be a candidate at the other clubs.
He may feel that they are too great a step down after Manchester United in terms of potential, but after being axed by Liverpool, Roy Hodgson went to Albion and that worked out rather well for him. Other managers in similar positions, Mark Hughes after being fired by Manchester City, and Avram Grant on leaving Chelsea, found their next employment at Fulham and Portsmouth respectively. While Grant is now out of the English game Hughes has continued to pick up mid-ranking jobs.
One job that will be available, but may now be out of reach, is at White Hart Lane. Daniel Levy was keen on Moyes previously, but the Tottenham chairman may feel Moyes' failure at Old Trafford has revealed him to be unqualified for the task of taking Spurs from a top six club to a Champions League regular.
Levy did hire Andre Villas-Boas after the Portuguese had failed at Chelsea, but Villas-Boas at least had a domestic league title and a European trophy on his CV. That helps, as Villas-Boas' continued ability to find big jobs, and be linked with even bigger ones, shows.
Maybe the nearest equivalent to Moyes is Bruce Rioch who built a solid reputation with Middlesbrough and Bolton before being given the Arsenal job in the wake of George Graham's departure. Graham left amid scandal but had been hugely successful at Highbury and, while he signed Dennis Bergkamp, the board soon decided Rioch was a poor fit for the club and sacked him after one season (in which Arsenal came fifth). Rioch's next employment was as assistant manager at QPR before managing Norwich and Wigan, then in Denmark.
Moyes can be expected to do better than that, but he may first decide to take a break, as Robbie Di Matteo has done after being axed by Chelsea, and spend a year studying other coaches and reviewing the lessons of his time in Manchester. Or he may, like McClaren (and McGuinness) go overseas to broaden his experiences with a view to returning with his mind refreshed and his abilities enhanced.
What can be assumed is that we have not seen the last of David Moyes's steely blue eyes in the dug-out, the biggest jobs may, however, now be forever beyond him.