London - Steve McClaren has been sacked as manager of English Premier League strugglers Newcastle United with "immediate effect", the north-east club announced Friday.
Newcastle are second-bottom in the table and facing relegation despite spending some 29 million ($41 million, 37 million euros) on new players during the January transfer window in a bid to avoid the drop.
Former England manager McClaren's position at St James' Park had been the subject of intense speculation for several days following Newcastle's 3-1 loss at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.
The club apologised to McClaren for the ensuing uncertainty over his position after the Bournemouth reverse but they said now was the time to end his nine months in charge, with Newcastle having won just six of their 28 league games so far this season and only Aston Villa below them in the table.
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"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," Newcastle's statement said.
"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."
Former Liverpool and Real Madrid boss Rafael Benitez has been touted as a possible successor to McClaren, but Newcastle's statement said: "A further announcement on a successor to Steve will be made in due course."
Reports in the British media suggested Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley was due to hold talks with Spaniard Benitez later on Friday.
Whoever takes over will have just 10 games left to keep Newcastle in the Premier League this season, starting with a daunting trip away to leaders Leicester City on Monday after McClaren took three training sessions this week, with his last on Thursday.- 'Change needed now' -
In the meantime, Charnley paid tribute to McClaren's "tireless" work by saying: "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."
Magpies fans have long been unhappy with the way Newcastle's millionaire owner Mike Ashley, the man behind Britain's Sports Direct chain of shops, has run the club and the team's lack of success has been reflected in the way managers have been hired and fired at St James' Park.
Since Bobby Robson, another former England boss, left in 2004, there have been 10 Newcastle managers in the following 12 years, with Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder, Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan (in his second stint), Joe Kinnear, Alan Shearer, Chris Hughton, Alan Pardew, John Carver and McClaren all coming and going.
For all their passionate support and status as a 'big club' in one of English football's traditional 'hotbeds', Newcastle have not won a major trophy since lifting the European Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, a forerunner of the current Europa League, back in 1969.
Their first home game following McCLaren's departure will be against local rivals Sunderland on March 20, arguably one of the most significant Tyne-Wear derbies in years given the Black Cats are also threatened by the prospect of relegation.