FABRICIO Coloccini had his hands full leaving St James’s Park.
Not metaphorically. He just had his hands full.
Always the last out of the dressing room, finally emerged out of the tunnel.
Clutching a washbag and a cup of mate, a caffeine-infused drink popular in his native Argentina, Coloccini, pictured, gave a brief interview about the Everton game on Sunday before leaving walking up the touchline and out of the empty stadium.
Within 24 hours he was among the early favourites to succeed outgoing manager Alan Pardew at Newcastle United.
However, Coloccini – who doesn’t yet have the coaching qualifications needed to take on the role full-time – was never a contender to take the job on.
After all, he’s got his hands full ON the pitch.
Coloccini, trusted and respected by club owner Mike Ashley, spoke of a brighter 2015 after captaining Newcastle to a 3-2 win over Everton.
The 32-year-old and his team-mates had little idea in the minutes after that win that United would be moving forward without Pardew, then the Premier League’s second-longest serving manager.
Pardew briefly spoke to the players before informing the club that he would not speak to the media.
Something, clearly, was afoot.
The 53-year-old – who, crucially, will have full control of transfers at Selhurst Park – then left St James’s Park for the last time as manager.
Given Crystal Palace’s league position, it is not certain he will be back next season with club he once served as a player.
John Carver, Pardew’s former No2, will take charge of the team for tomorrow’s home game against Burnley along with Steve Stone, the club’s first-team coach.
It is not clear whether goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman – who previously worked with Pardew at Charlton Athletic – will be involved given that it is likely he too will join Palace.
It’s nothing new to Carver, who has served the club for much of his life.
Carver could even take charge on a longer-term basis, possibly until the end of the season as the club assesses its options.
Pardew will almost certainly be the last manager under Ashley, who is minded to appoint a head coach.
Whether Carver expected Pardew to go, and so suddenly, is another matter, but he’s a capable and able coach who has also managed in his own right.
Just how long Carver is in charge is down to Ashley, at his holiday home in Barbados.
The likelier names in the frame to succeed Pardew, pictured, don’t excite United fans.
Frank de Boer and Michael Laudrup, two more popular names, don’t seem so likely. Both are in work, for a start.
The idea that the club would persuade Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp to come to Tyneside seems fanciful.
Many on Tyneside wanted a change, but many question the ability of Ashley, pictured, to find a suitable successor.
Only time will tell whether Ashley – who will be advised by managing director Lee Charnley and chief scout Graham Carr – gets it right.
The broader question is whether Ashley’s vision for the club is right.
Supporters crave footballing success, something Ashley seemingly feels is secondary to financial stability.
Are the two necessarily mutually exclusive?
While it’s impossible to second-guess Ashley, he has leaned towards internal appointments in the past, or at least people he’s known and trusted.
Hence the link with long-serving Coloccini, appointed captain by Pardew, who yesterday said his goodbyes to players and staff at the club’s training ground.
Pardew then left, with some sadness, for the final time to start afresh at Selhurst Park.
He left a squad, albeit one short in a couple of key areas, of talented players.
How they respond to Carver’s guidance over the coming days, and maybe weeks and months, could prove decisive in determining the identity of Pardew’s successor.