Struggling Rafael Benitez still has the backing of more than half of Liverpool fans to remain as manager, but a large proportion of supporters now want to see him leave the club.

 

An exclusive poll conducted by JMU Journalism concluded that, although more people voted in favour of Benitez staying than going, the manager seems to be gradually losing support.

 

National newspapers and fan sites have run their own polls recently, though online voting is notoriously unreliable and can become hijacked by supporters of rival teams. JMU Journalism decided to find out what Liverpool fans really think by doing it the old-fashioned way. Our team of reporters went out on the streets of the city on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, asking only true Reds for their opinions in the two days leading up to Liverpool's 2-0 win over Tottenham at Anfield.

 

As scrutiny of his future continues amidst calls for his sacking, we asked 355 Reds' supporters across

Liverpool what they thought, in a survey which was reported as a newsflash on the BBC Sport website.

 

Around 53% were happy for Benitez to stay in charge but

35% believed it was time for his reign to come to an end,

a figure which would have been far lower a mere six

months ago. A further 12% were undecided either way,

with many pointing to the mega-million pound pay-offs the

club would be obligated to give the manager and his

backroom staff if he is sacked.

 

Pressure has mounted on Benitez in recent months, with

Liverpool’s disastrous season leaving the club with a huge

challenge to retain their place in the top four. The recent FA

Cup defeat to Championship side Reading was the final

straw for some fans.

 

Ex-players and pundits were quick to criticise Benitez after that loss, with the likes of Ronnie Whelan, Ian St John and Danny Murphy calling for the Liverpool board to act.

 

According to our poll, the man most fans would like to see replace Benitez at Anfield is ex-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who is currently managing in Italy with Inter Milan.

 

Mourinho often had a fraught relationship with Liverpool during his time in England, but a large number of fans who want Benitez to leave would like to see the self-styled 'Special One' take over. Given the precarious financial position at the club, it is unlikely that Liverpool could afford to bring him to Anfield.

 

A common suggestion is that Kenny Dalglish could step in if Liverpool do sack Benitez, taking charge for a second time, and fans ranked him their second choice behind Mourinho in the poll.

 

Other popular names put forward included another ex-Chelsea manager, Guus Hiddink, Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill, recently unemployed Mark Hughes, and Birmingham City's Alex McLeish. Everton boss David Moyes even managed to pick up a couple of nominations from unhappy Reds fans.

 

The Liverpool board have been adamant in recent weeks that Benitez’s position will not be under review any time soon, but with the run of poor results showing no sign of ending, pressure on the Spaniard has reached an all-time high.

 

Benitez has vowed to keep battling to turn the season around and is confident that he will see out the remaining four years on his contract. But losing the support of the fans precipitated Gerard Houllier's departure from LFC in 2004, and Benitez must keep Reds supporters on side to have any chance of still being in charge beyond the end of this season.

 

Additional reporting by: Sheena McStravick; Ayden Feeney; Tom Broughton; John Piper; Chris Bradley; Anthony Webster; Claire Bennett; Scott Partridge; Jon Birchall; Adam Hicks; Liam Deveney; Richard Butterworth; Adam Smith; Daniel Jackson, Ryan Edwards, James Hamling & John Mathews.

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