Newcastle failing to learn from 20 years of managerial mayhem
After Newcastle United chalked up their biggest home win over local rivals Sunderland for more than half a century in October, crushing their biggest rivals 5-1, the first question manager Chris Hughton was asked was whether he thought the victory had made his job safe.
Such is the quicksand that the north-east club has been built on in recent years that even a result that once would have warmed their fans through the coldest of north-east winters proved only a short-term reprieve for an honest, straightforward, likeable and successful manager.
Earlier that week the club had issued a statement supporting Hughton following widespread speculation about his future in the wake of a 4-0 home defeat by Arsenal in the League Cup.
When they followed the Sunderland success by beating a full-strength Arsenal at the Emirates – with an earlier win at Everton and a 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa also in the bag – one might have thought that Hughton had proved his credentials for a club desperate for some continuity.
Newcastle’s revolving door managerial policy in the previous 12 years had seen 10 managers come and go.
Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullit, Bobby Robson, Graeme Souness and others all came and went on the back of often reasonable Premier League showings before the combination of Joe Kinnear and Alan Shearer failed to prevent their relegation in 2009. In the 24 years Alex Ferguson has been at Manchester United, Newcastle have changed their manager 14 times.
Yet after all that, chairman Mike Ashley said via the club’s statement on Monday that he wanted a more experienced man in charge.
Having worked as a coach at his former club Spurs for 14 years, and under 10 different managers, having spent two as Ireland’s assistant boss and two at Newcastle in various guises, Hughton is hardly wet behind the ears.
Ashley, who tried unsuccessfully first to win the fans over and then to sell the club, initially hedged his bets by making Hughton caretaker for at the start of last season before appointing him full time in October 2009.
Hughton duly secured the Championship title and had made a decent fist of gaining a foothold in the top flight, helping develop Andy Carroll into an England striker and getting the best out of midfielders Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan.
Newcastle’s home record was poor, with defeats by Blackpool, Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers not going down well in the wake of last season’s unbeaten home campaign in the Championship.
Yet after 16 games they are 11th in the standings. Liverpool, Everton, Villa and Birmingham City, all top-half finishers last season, are below them.
Yes, they have been inconsistent – sandwiching a 1-1 draw at champions Chelsea with a 5-1 loss at Bolton and Sunday’s poor show in the 3-1 defeat at West Brom – but so have just about every other team in the Premier League this season.
Four more points would put Newcastle in the Europa League places, four fewer would have them in the relegation zone.
If they finish the season in 11th place will Ashley be casting around again for a new man?
PHOTO: Newcastle United’s manager Chris Hughton stands in the dugout before their English League Cup soccer match against Arsenal at St James’ Park stadium in Newcastle, north east England October 27, 2010. REUTERS/David Moir