Despite his reputation as a businessman, Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley, has certainly shown the football world that he has no stomach for the ‘roller-coaster’ ride that the Premier League has become this season. His sacking of the Magpies manager, Chris Hughton, this week has met with howls of derision throughout football and now he faces the prospect of appointing a sixth manager since he took over the club a little over two years ago!
Sadly for Hughton he must now go out into the football management wilderness, after performing a minor miracle at St James Park, since being appointed team boss last year. In his first full year, he guided Newcastle to top place in the Championship, winning 30 of their 46 matches and losing just 4. They finished 11 points clear of West Brom in second and were thirty points clear of Championship play-off winners, Blackpool.
Hughton’s mission this season was to keep Newcastle in the Premier League and although some of the team’s results have been somewhat erratic, they were more than reasonably placed in the table in 12thplace. With so many unpredictable results taking place in the top flight, could have meant that with two wins on the trot would have seen the ‘Magpies’ probably challenging for a top six spot, but Ashley clearly believes that the reverse was more likely to happen, despite some impressive wins in the past weeks, including a 5-1 hammering of arch rivals Sunderland and the other an away at Arsenal who currently sit top of the Premier League.
The ‘writing was on the wall’ in real terms after Hughton’s assistant, Colin Calderwood decided to head to Edinburgh to take over at Hibernian. Ashley’s obvious reluctance to replace him sent a clear message to Hughton, but unperturbed he simply got on with a very difficult job. Hughton was hardly helped in the transfer market either; with no money (apparently) Hughton has had to take a Championship side to compete in the top flight without being able to seriously strengthen his squad. They were and still are five players short of being a top Premiership side which makes Hughton’s performance even more staggering and Ashley’s decision to sack him equally so and is a illustrates just how crazy the ‘sack race’ has become.
The same old ‘usual suspects’ are being touted as Hughton’s replacement in the next Newcastle United manager odds, but surely, one of those, Martin O’Neill, having walked out on Aston Villa earlier this season following a variety of transfer controversies, would surely not be persuaded to ply his services under an owner with Ashley’s reputation despite the betting suggesting he’s one of the leading candidates.
In the meantime, Newcastle legend, Peter Beardsley will look after things as far as the first team is concerned with assistance from former another former star, Steve Stone. If those two can conjure up a couple of wins in the next two games, Beardsley’s first will be against his other old club, Liverpool on Saturday, then perhaps Ashley will see the Newcastle born duo as becoming a cheap option to carry out the original Hughton mission of keeping Newcastle in the Premier League.
Former Spurs boss, Martin Jol, who suddenly resigned from Ajax this week is already being tipped however as the likely next Newcastle manager but Alan Pardew is the current favourite, an appointment that is unlikely to go down well on Tyneside and one that won’t scream ‘progress’ to the St James’s Park faithful.