RONNIE Moore is in pole position to be the next manager of Hartlepool United tasked with avoiding relegation from the Football League.
The 61-year-old watched from the stands as Pools slumped to a 4-0 defeat at Burton Albion on Saturday.
Defeat left Pools six points adrift of safety at the bottom of Sky Bet League Two, with a shocking goal difference of -24.
Moore, who has previously managed Tranmere and Rotherham, is vastly experienced and it will be quite a coup if struggling Pools can pull off his capture.
An announcement on the next manager – the third of the season – is expected early this week.
After early frontrunners ruled themselves out, Moore is now the clear favourite, with his odds dropping sharply following his appearance at Burton.
It is understood that Moore, who sat by himself away from club chief executive Russ Green, went to the match, after applying for the job, to take a closer look for himself.
He stayed for the duration and made extensive notes throughout.
Pools are looking to appoint an experienced manager to turn around the season and Moore certainly fits the bill.
The Scouser has more than 900 games in management under his belt, and is keen for a return after eight months out of work after being sacked by Tranmere earlier this year for breaching betting rules.
The former striker was fined £2,000 and given a one-month suspension, suspended for two years, after he admitted an FA charge relating to betting on competitions and matches in which his club was involved.
Moore broke the rules after placing bets for family members from his account, which on one occasion included a £1 stake on Tranmere to win in a double with Manchester United, which returned less than £4.
At the time, Moore admitted he should have known the rules and held his hands up adding: “It was a genuinely honest mistake made by myself and I am embarrassed about it.”
The unfortunate episode cost him his job at Tranmere but he still believes he has a lot to offer and is keen on a return to the dugout.
Moore wasn’t among the early contenders but emerged as a strong candidate after his son and former Pools striker Ian Thomas-Moore revealed on Twitter that the vacant post would interest his dad.
Former Middlesbrough and Pools number two Craig Hignett was the early favourite but told SportMail he was thinking carefully about his next move after leaving the Championship club.
Bristol Rovers boss – and former Pools midfielder – Darrell Clarke ruled himself out, while Rochdale’s assistant Chris Beech was distanced from the role by his boss Keith Hill.
Ex-Scunthorpe United boss Brian Laws and Mark Venus have also dropped down the betting.
Caretaker boss Sam Collins was immediately placed in temporary charge after the sacking of Paul Murray following the FA Cup defeat to Blyth Spartans.
“I’ve known Paul [Murray] a long time and we are friends,” Collins said after the Burton defeat.
“But I’m employed by this football club and if I’m told to take charge then I will do that.
“That’s all I can do, get on with it and prepare them as well as possible.
“I’ll do the job as long as I’m told.”
Former player and current academy coach Ian McGuckin has been assisting Collins and was in the dugout for the trip to Burton.