LONDON // The final whistle for West Ham's FA Cup match with Barnsley today also will mark the end of Avram Grant's tenure as coach of the Hammers.
As reported in The National three weeks ago, the club's owners came to the conclusion they need to dismiss Grant to give the Premier League's bottom club a chance to stave off relegation.
The leading candidates to take over at Upton Park are Sam Allardyce and Chris Hughton. But Martin O'Neill, a potential target for Liverpool, also is a contender.
It was reported that a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Newcastle United on Wednesday finally persuaded the club to dismiss Grant.
But it is believed that the humiliating outcome merely made it easier for the club to justify Grant's dismissal, especially after a "mini-run" over the holiday period which saw the Hammers beat Fulham and Wolves and draw against Everton.
The owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, have concluded that they made a major mistake in appointing Grant in the summer and decided they needed to bring in a new man at the start of the transfer window this month so that he can, on a limited budget, buy and sell players to revive a beleaguered squad for the relegation battle ahead.
The defeat at Newcastle forced the club to realise they must dispense with Grant even if it means they do not have a new man in place ahead of next week's Carling Cup semi-final first leg against Birmingham City.
Third parties working for West Ham were involved in talks last night to line up a new manager.
Allardyce, recently sacked by Blackburn, is a major contender but "Big Sam", believed to be relaxing in Dubai, will not easily be persuaded.
A source close to Allardyce said he was in no rush to get back into football but was also keeping an eye on developments at Aston Villa, where Gerard Houllier is under pressure after poor results during the holiday period.
West Ham's problem is that they cannot wait long to make up their minds, nor will they be keen to allow someone like Allardyce to bring in an expensive new backroom staff.
But Sullivan and Gold have to weigh the expense of a prominent coach against the cost of relegation - at least £40 million (Dh228.5m) lost in revenue in the first year, with the financial toll mounting if they do not bounce right back to the Premier League.
Hughton, recently sacked by Newcastle, is seen by the club as a potentially cheap but also safe pair of hands. But there also is a worry that Hughton is not a "big enough character" for the challenge ahead. That is why the Hammers board are now considering an audacious move for O'Neill - who is ready to get back into the game after he quit Villa on the eve of the season.
O'Neill has a great CV at turning around the fortunes of clubs, but it remains to be seen whether he would be interested in taking on the task at the Hammers or whether his wage demands and insistence on his own coaching staff would be acceptable.