David Wetherall is in line to keep the City hot-seat for the rest of the season - paving the way for Stuart McCall to make a glorious return in the summer.

Julian Rhodes is close to drawing up a "three or four man" short-list for the managerial vacancy and plans to start interviewing next week.

His hunt has thrown up plenty of names, including Andy Ritchie, Keith Alexander, Stan Ternent and John Carver - but fans' idol McCall is thought to be way out in front on the chairman's wish-list.

McCall's current deal as Sheffield United No 2 runs until June and City are in no position financially to offer compensation for anyone under contract.

But giving Wetherall an extended run as caretaker boss would buy Rhodes time to make his move in the summer.

If results hold up - and Rhodes believes Wetherall can turn City's form round and beat the drop - he could then pull out all the stops to lure McCall away from Bramall Lane.

Rhodes said: "I always wanted to get these two home games out of the way before deciding anything.

"David is certainly in charge against Brentford on Saturday and I wouldn't rule out the possibility of him being in charge for the rest of the season.

"I think he would have as much chance as anybody of keeping us up and then it would give us the opportunity of viewing it in the summer and making a more long-term appointment then.

"There's a lot of names you expect among the applicants as well as a few surprises. But I have to ask whether anybody is going to do better than David if they came in now.

"I'm only going to appoint somebody instead of David if I think they can do a better job. Somebody would have to really convince me of that."

The chairman's comments are the biggest hint yet that he is desperate to land McCall and is prepared to wait for his man.

McCall, who will not discuss the speculation, has been earmarked by Sheffield United as Neil Warnock's long-term successor. It is understood he was primed to take over when Warnock was close to joining Portsmouth last season.

But with the Blades likely to survive in the Premiership, Warnock is expected to stay on for at least one more year.

Rhodes could not compete financially with the top-flight club. But he will hope the emotional pull of coming "home" to City and the attraction of stepping up to manager straight away after three seasons as Warnock's right-hand man would prove a persuasive combination for McCall to return for a third spell.

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