After years of turbulence, the massive north-east club that is Newcastle United finally seems stable under the guidance of manager Chris Hughton. For all the managers that Newcastle has had over the last decade, here is one that finally seems in control of the team and sure about his own position.
Since being relegated from the Premiership last season, the club is now almost certainly going to win the Championship to return straight back to the top flight. Since the start of the season, up until now, revolution is the one word that best describes the change of fortunes at St James’ Park. The name Newcastle United should have been Newcastle Dis-united last season, and for several seasons before. There are no more dressing room politics and Hughton has firmly won the respect of the squad.
No matter what league Newcastle find themselves in, they will always be a huge club, which has a stadium with a capacity of 52,000 and one of Britain’s most vocal and passionate fan base. So in appointing a manager that was only supposed to be there on a temporary basis, and one who is not a big name, Hughton can be very proud of the journey he has taken the club on so far. The way he is running the team, is just how a football team should be run. The word team is crucial. Hughton’s primary concern, quite rightly, should be on the pitch and team affairs only. What happens in general with the club is left mainly for others to deal with.
Whilst succeeding at Championship level, Newcastle’s important figures should refrain from putting pressure on Hughton to take the club to ‘another level’ should they be promoted to the Premiership. For many years this type of anticipation was the Tyneside club’s downfall- unrealistic targets being set. The last trophy may well be over 50 years ago but winning the Championship will more than make amends for that.
The club was hit with huge debts and a £60m wage bill after dropping in to the Championship this season. The talk of takeovers only added further problems, so Hughton can only be admired for sticking through all of that. A bigger test of his would have come when he was appointed on a full-time basis. This is because he would have known that the majority of the fans would have been against it. Accepting this, and getting on with the job quietly, is a testament to the man’s character.
Listening to the way Hughton speaks in press conferences, and his general actions around his players, shows a man who is fiercely loyal to his players and his man-management style must be that of someone who encourages opinions and probably trusts the senior players. The success this season, at being top of the league, comes down to the players playing for the manager. They are playing with a spirit that has re-emerged at Newcastle this season.
It helps that Hughton was at Newcastle in the dark days and has steadily established himself as a coach. He has changed the face of the club, and should they earn promotion, then the fanatical fans will consider holding him in the same regard as some of the famous players who have represented Newcastle.