Newcastle United will struggle to find a replacement for Steve Bruce due to the “shoestring” budget offered by Mike Ashley.

That is according to former Leeds United striker Noel Whelan who, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, suggested prospective managerial targets would be put off taking charge despite it being a “massive club”.

As revealed by Football Insider, Ashley faces the prospect of paying Bruce a £4million pay-off if he is sacked now or “significantly more” if the 60-year-old first keeps the Magpies in the Premier League.

It is understood Roberto Martinez is the leading candidate to take charge if Bruce departs.

Bruce’s position at St James’ Park appeared to be under serious threat after a drastic loss of form and growing frustration among the dressing room.

However, Newcastle have briefed the media they are keeping faith with the boyhood fan despite increased calls for the sack.

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Whelan suggested Ashley would have a list of managerial targets lined up in case of Bruce’s exit.

Asked for his verdict on Martinez, Whelan told Football Insider’s Russell Edge: “There will be candidates. It’s whether those candidates want to work with Mike Ashley on the budget he’s going to give them. That’s the thing, isn’t it?

“It’s such a massive club with a great fanbase. You look at the history and the players they used to have there. Look at the exciting football they played. 

“That’s what the fans want and they want to bring that back. You can’t do that on a shoestring.”

Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce

Newcastle currently sit 17th in the Premier League table, just two points off the drop zone.

They have won just twice in their last 18 top-flight games.

In other Newcastle United news, Danny Mills has blasted the Magpies squad after recent comments from Ciaran Clark.