LONDON // Avram Grant, the West Ham manager, has been given a stay of execution - but only, it seems, until the New Year.
Grant has been under increasing pressure in the wake of the club's disastrous start to the season, which has left the Hammers rooted to the foot of the table.
Publicly, the club's joint-owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, have backed Grant and denied his position is in jeopardy.
Behind the scenes a different picture has emerged.
Grant has been summoned to what have now become several showdown meetings with his bosses, the latest of which has seen Gold insist that Grant starts to prove his managerial credentials and inspire the squad to fulfil their potential.
It is understood that unless there is a dramatic improvement over the next month Grant will be axed.
A highly placed source at the club said: "There are four games coming up over the holiday period - away to Blackburn and Fulham then at home to Everton and Wolves.
"They are all seen as winnable. And three wins would suddenly put an entirely different complexion on our position.
"Three wins would be good. But if that doesn't happen and West Ham are still bottom come January 1, then it's fair to say the club's owners would reluctantly feel a new man would need to come in and try to sort things out.
"Given all that has gone on over the last few years in terms of the club's finances then relegation would be a disaster.
"When the new owners took over last year such a scenario was described as Armageddon. The club is now on a firmer footing and maybe it would not be quite that - but it would still be very bad.
"It's fair to say the owners have become increasingly worried about the seeming lack of inspiration and passion shown by Grant.
"There will be some money available to spend in the January transfer window but, unless Grant can prove he can turn things around, then a judgement will be made when the window opens and that could well be a new manager."
Had the Hammers hierarchy moved sooner, they could have lured their former boss Alan Pardew, who is now installed at Newcastle.
Ironically Chris Hughton, the manager Newcastle sacked, has been linked with the Hammers.