By: Mike Newell
So after some time off, I’m back reflecting on an issue that will become more prevalent as the silly season of January comes, of course that is the glut of football managers in Europe that will lose their jobs. We’ve already seen a few managers go in the Italian Serie A and now the Premier League has its first.
It seems not that long ago that Newcastle United were in complete crisis mode. At the end of the 08/09 season the club were relegated from the top flight to the championship, the Alan Shearer experiment failed and owner Mike Ashley turned to a fairly unknown [picappgallerysingle id=”10366481″] to steer the club through its first campaign outside the Premiership in 16 years. I remember that summer because most people had written the club off and truly thought they may not make the journey straight back to the top flight. Many predictions, including mine, had the club finishing mid table in the championship and maybe enduring an extended stay in the 2nd tier.
Little was expected from Hughton who was the bookie’s favourite to get the sack first, but all he did was stroll though the championship season and get the club promoted with a record breaking season. He helped develop a great young striking talent in Andy Carroll, revive the career of Shola Ameobi and once the EPL season started in August he lead the club to a decent start. However even with high profile wins over Arsenal, Aston Villa and derby rivals Sunderland there were always whispers that Hughton’s job was never quite safe. There was a feeling amongst Newcastle hierarchy that they needed a more experienced manager. Although Hughton has been in coaching for almost 15 years he never was a full time manager of a club until he got the call at Newcastle.
So when the news dropped that he had been sacked Tuesday few people were really shocked. What might have surprised us as observers and, by the sound of it the players, was the timing. This weekend’s 3-1 loss to fellow promoted side West Brom was arguably their worst performance of the season, however I never got the sense the club was in danger of falling into the relegation battle. The team played a solid, disciplined game, maybe not flashy or high octane but it got results. Something this club has not had in the past decade, with multiple manger firings and over priced signing.
Also aside from Andy Carroll’s off the field activities, the players seemed to be pulling for each other and for their manager. The first real rumblings about Hughton’s job came in mid October just before the club played in the Tyne-Wear derby against heated rival Sunderland. With the club sitting mid table it seemed out of left field that Mike Ashley would want to fire a popular manager, the players responded by thrashing the Black Cats that Sunday 5-1. At that point his job looked safe….Well as safe a football managers job can be.
This is not the first rash decision Newcastle ownership has made, but this could be the most costly. The team currently sits 12th in the table, but with only 4 points separating them from the drop zone, it seemed a level headed approached was needed instead of a change in leadership just before the busy holiday fixture list. Can a big name manager come in a gain the respect of the players in time to keep the club out of a relegation scrap? My question to Ashley and the rest of the Newcastle board is why even go down that road? The season is long and clubs go through bad patches, just ask Chelsea, but a panic move just before Christmas could inflame the situation and cause a wide spread crisis.
The board released a statement today saying “The board would like to place on record their thanks to Chris for his considerable efforts during the club’s transition from Championship to Premier League club, but later added they were looking for someone “with more managerial experience”. The last time they went down this road it got them relegated, we could be watching history repeating itself on Tyneside.