EX-SAINT Garry Monk is an early frontrunner in the race to be named the next Newcastle boss.

The St James’ Park side announced on Monday that they wouldn’t be extending Rafael Benitez’s contract when it expires this weekend.

Monk, who spent eight years at Saints, was sacked by Birmingham City last week.

His dismissal came as a surprise to many after he kept the club in the Sky Bet Championship despite a deduction of nine points for a breach of the Football League’s profitability and sustainability rules.

Betting companies have Monk second favourite to take over at Newcastle behind former Manchester United and Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho.

The Magpies’ decision to not extend Benitez’s stay hasn’t gone down well with their fanbase.

And former Saint and Newcastle great, Alan Shearer, spoke out about the club’s decision to let the Spaniard leave at the end of his contract.

Writing in his Sun column, Shearer said: “Like every Newcastle fan, I am devastated Rafa Benitez is leaving the club.

“It is desperately sad news and a massive blow — and it is ridiculous it has to come to this.

“Newcastle were fortunate enough to have a world-class manager who was doing a very good job and they have just allowed him to walk away for nothing.

“It is a shambles and a travesty. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Benitez has been linked with a possible move to the Far East for over 12 months, with Chinese club Dalian Yifang reported to have offered him a contract worth £12million a year.

But he has made it clear in the recent past that he sees his future in Europe, and ideally in the Premier League.

The club's situation is further complicated as owner Mike Ashley is in talks with several potential purchasers.

One buyer included Dubai-based billionaire Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who claimed last month he had "agreed terms" with the Sports Direct magnate.