What do you do when you’re the unpopular owner of the most-supported football club in the North-east of England? You sack your popular manager. That’s what happened today when Mike Ashley decided to relieve Chris Hughton of his services today at St James’ Park… or should I say SportsDirect.com @ St James’ Park Stadium?
Chris Hughton took over as caretaker manager of Newcastle United for a third time at the start of last season, following the clubs relegation from the Premier League under Alan Shearer and Iain Dowie. The club had been a sinking ship with players not playing together and generally the club looked a mess.
At the start of last season, many expected Newcastle would fail to come straight back up, some going as far as saying they were relegation contenders in the Championship. Not only did they come up, they came up as champions, 11 points ahead of second-place West Bromwich Albion and only the fourth side to be promoted from the second tier with over 100 points since the birth of the Premier League. They done it in style.
Newcastle have made a positive, if somewhat inconsistent start to the Premier League season. A victory at the Emirates, a draw with Chelsea and a 5-1 thrashing of rivals Sunderland in recent weeks. Could they have asked for any more? Should a 3-1 defeat at West Brom without his first choice central defence really be the end of the line for a manger who’s brought stability to a Newcastle team that had been missing for a few years? Hardly.
Newcastle were 11th in the Premier League at the time of Chris Hughton’s departure today – the same position they were in in January 2008 when they dismissed Sam Allardyce, the best manager they’ve had prior to Chris Hughton. It was all downhill for the after that. Who are they going to bring in to steady the ship now?
Chris Hughton had done a fantastic job with what he had been given. A defence that was terrible in their relegation season, Fabricio Coloccini in particular. The Argentine has clean sheets versus Aston Villa and Chelsea this season. Joey Barton’s career looks revived under Chris Hughton, while even getting good efforts from Kevin Nolan and Jonas Gutierrez whom looked dire in the Premier League two seasons ago. Wayne Routledge is also looking good down the right wing for the first time in his Premier League career since leaving Crystal Palace. A bargain buy from Queens Park Rangers in January. Andy Carroll is also the top English goalscorer in the Premier League this season. How these players and the rest of the squad will do under the future manager we shall see.
For Chris Hughton and how he turned Newcastle around will give him great opportunity to get another managerial job in one of the top two flights in English football. For Newcastle, Martin Jol is odds-on favourite to take over the role following his departure from Ajax by mutual consent this evening. Other managers linked to the job include the usual; Alan Pardew, Alan Curbishley and Martin O’Neill.
Newcastle’s next four Premier League fixtures are Liverpool (home), Birmingham (away), Manchester City (home) and Tottenham (away).