The new manager of Chester FC is set to be announced next week.

The Blues board will interview the four-man shortlist tomorrow and Friday, with the prospective candidates given the chance to outline their vision for how to move the club forward.

Jon McCarthy’s caretaker spell in charge, which yielded three wins out of four games and ensured the Blues maintained their National League status, is the front runner to get the nod after a fine audition.

But the former Northern Ireland international, who arrived at the club as assistant manager to former boss Steve Burr in January 2014, faces stiff competition for the permanent role in the Blues hot seat.

It’s believed the three contenders to McCarthy for the vacancy include ex-Chester City captain Paul Carden, former Eastleigh boss Richard Hill and one-time Everton and Newcastle United man Steve Watson.

Carden, 37, is no stranger to Chester fans having made over 150 appearances in two spells with the club. He left his post as manager of Southport earlier this season having kept the Sandgrounders up the previous season.

Former Eastleigh boss Hill is no stranger to non-league football having managed both the Spitfires and Stevenage Borough.

Jon McCarthy
Jon McCarthy

He resigned from his position as Eastleigh boss in September last year just days after his side lost 1-0 to Chester at the Lookers Vauxhall Stadium. Ex-boss Burr was linked with the vacancy in the wake of Hill’s departure but rebuffed an approach from the Hampshire club.

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A Premier League player with Everton, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion, Watson is, arguably, the most high-profile candidate to be linked with the Blues job.

The 42-year-old has, most recently, been working alongside John Askey at Macclesfield Town having previously taken in coaching roles with Birmingham City and Huddersfield Town.

Paul Carden
Paul Carden

Whoever gets the nod to be the successor to Burr will have to set about piecing a squad together for next season on a similar budget as last.

Only Craig Mahon, Tom Shaw, Sam Hughes and Jon Worsnop remain under contract for next season.

The future of 27-goal Ross Hannah remains unclear, with the Sheffield-born marksman yet to be offered a new deal by the Blues, who, the Chronicle understands, are holding off on resolving the futures of their out-of-contract players until they have a new manager in place.

Key men for the Blues who are currently out of contract include sought-after defender Ben Heneghan, centre back Ryan Astles, midfielders John Rooney and Luke George, full-back Johnny Hunt and in-form striker Kane Richards.

Others including Ryan Higgins, Jordan Chapell, James Alabi, Tony Thompson and Craig Hobson will all be waiting to hear if they will be offered fresh terms while Ryan Lloyd has returned to parent club Port Vale following the end of his loan spell with the Blues.