If there is one term in football that could describe a club like Newcastle United – it must be Self-Destructive. No offense meant to the fans or the board, but it seems like whatever the once-upon-a-time English giants do these days, turns into an upheaval. The Magpies are more or less known these days for the rigorous treatment of their managers who end up being sacked sooner rather than later. The English tabloids were getting dry on Monday before the news broke that Newcastle has decided to part ways with their manager Chris Hughton. For some, this was a shock, but for the others who know about Newcastle United Football Club, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. Yet, it is possibly a foolish decision made by the board (Mike Ashley) to sack the man who bought Newcastle back into England’s top flight.
Newcastle fans and their board have a telepathic understanding when they sack their manager. Both of them take their turn to make sure that their club is not made to be stable in the long run. Mike Ashley, the club chairman has sacked 6 managers in less than 3 years – which is an absolute insult not only to the club and English football, but also to football in general. Chris Hughton was appointed in October 2009 when the Magpies were lying in the Championship after being relegated in 2008 and the man in charge had an arduous task to get the Toon Army back to the highest level. He did just that without any fuss, without any complaints and that was no mean achievement considering the ever existing dressing room troubles at Newcastle.
After extracting the best out of his players and guiding them to a trophy (winning the championship), he had certainly raised some hopes for the Toon Army. Everyone knew that winning the Championship was not the real deal but surviving in the Premier league was the tougher task, which was emphasized by many experts in the pre-season. Yet, Hughton kept his own and managed to get a decent start to the season defeating Aston Villa 6-0 at St. James’ Park after losing the opening encounter against Manchester United at Old Trafford. However, good results continued for Newcastle as they won away matches against Everton, Arsenal and took a point off Wolves. Their sweetest victory came against Sunderland (5-1) in the local derby.
At the same time, they lost a number of games, but managed to keep themselves in the top half of the table by the end of October. Once again, it was a remarkable achievement by Hughton to keep his team focused by his calm management style and keep them out of the relegation battle. It is obvious that Newcastle are no Manchester Utd, Chelsea or Arsenal to be challenging for the big honours; and inconsistency is a part of the team until it gets stabilized and the foundation is laid.
A poor set of results against Blackburn, Bolton and West Brom was the only thing required for Hughton to face the axe. The respectable, dignified man Hughton is, he was never given the respect he deserved for changing the complete outlook of Newcastle and more importantly getting them back into the Premier League – and also for keeping them in 12th place, above the likes of Everton, Aston Villa and Fulham.
Why the Rush?
Yes, a couple of bad results are hard to digest, but patience is the key to success as indicated by so many clubs and sportsmen in the past. Chelsea, the defending Champions are having a torrid time of their own having lost the pole position in the league, but they have kept the trust in their manager to get rid of the bad patch sooner than later. Mike Ashley might believe that his team needs a more experienced manager and there certainly are better managers in the market than Hughton to take the Newcastle post. Yet, many felt that Hughton was the right man for Newcastle, who has created a balanced squad with some very shrewd signings (Campbell, Ben Arfa and Tiote) and a number of youth players (Andy Carroll). Moreover, he had managed to gain his players’ and fans’ trust and had managed to unify them as a team rather than a team of talented individuals. This could turn out to haunt not only Ashley, but also the players and the fans who were very supportive of their manager.
It was very well known that Newcastle are no Premier League contenders and were on the way to finish somewhere in the middle of the table. Yet, one certain Ashley certainly didn’t think so – as he wanted a more experienced person to take his team forward. It will be interesting to see who Ashley gets in to replace Hughton and even more importantly whether he can actually keep the Toon Army where they are currently placed at, given their continuous backroom problems. Some rumours also indicate that Hughton refused to sell some of his star players after many clubs had enquired about them – which led to a disagreement between him and the Chairman.
Although Newcastle will miss the influence of Hughton on their players, there are a few good candidates who could bring the much needed stability to the Toon Army. Possible replacements include Martin O Neill, Martin Jol and quite surprisingly Frank Rijkaard has also been linked with the role. Martin O Neill would be the best choice considering his exploits with Celtic and the recent premier league involvements with Aston Villa – whom he guided to a brilliant 6th place finish in three seasons on a row.
However, Martin Jol has done equally well with Ajax, guiding them to a runners-up place in the Dutch League, notching up the Dutch Cup in the process and he is considered as the favourite for the Newcastle managerial post. Whoever is appointed as the manager, he should be given more time and treated in a better manner. If such a thing ever happens at this club, there could be massive improvements given their decent transfer budgets which could lay the foundations and bring the much needed stability. O Neill and Jol are both capable of doing wonders at St. James Park given their past experiences. But, if the opposite happens, Newcastle could yet again see themselves as the victim of their own actions or perhaps immature reactions.