IIIa) The Mess that is Always Newcastle…

Ok. Here we go. Newcastle lose to West Brom 3-1 away from home on Sunday. The loss follows a brilliant 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea, though also follows a thrashing at the hands of Bolton (5-1) and a draw to Fulham (0-0) and loss to Blackburn (1-2), both at home. Monday afternoon, manager Chris Hughton is sacked.

So before we go any further on the disgraceful nature of this dismissal, as well as the equally disgraceful replacement which is supposedly going to be announced in the next 48 hours…let us rewind back a few years.

June 7th 2007 – Mike Ashley arrives on a golden chariot, to save Newcastle fans from the evil that is Freddy Shepherd. Joy. We’re going back to Europe.

9th January 2008 – Mike Ashley sacks current manager Sam ‘Fatty’ Allardyce, who has only been in the job 8 months and was Freddy Shepherd’s signing. The move comes after a dreadful loss to Derby County.

16th January 2008 – A massive PR stunt, Ashley signs Kevin Keegan as manager, returning the ‘Messiah’ to Newcastle for the third coming. Fans are overjoyed, going against better judgement. This writer here was over-optimistic indeed.

29th January 2008 – Ashley signs Dennis Wise as Executive Director of Football. He was given the job of overseeing transfers into the club.

May 2008 – Newcastle United finish a respectable 12th considering the events of the season, with Keegan managing to bring about some consistency within his side for the final 8 games.

June 2008 – Chairman Chris Mort departs and Derek Llambias takes his place. Perhaps the turning point in the Ashley era. Mort was a fine Chairman who communicated with the fans and always seemed to be on the ball in working with the media. Llambias proves to be the direct opposite.

4th September 2008 – Kevin Keegan resigns after three days of talks with the club and a lack of positive movement in the transfer window. Milner is sold without Keegan’s approval, while Nacho Gonzalez and Xisco are signed behind his back as well. The two signings are thought to be made by Wise, and rumours abound that they were finalised as ‘favours’ to football agents.

14th September 2008 – Ashley puts the club up for sale, citing poor relations with fans as the reason.

26th September 2008 – Joe Kinnear is brought in as Newcastle manager, after being out of a job for more than four years. He was initially signed on a 10-week contract while Ashley tried to sell the club.

December 2008 – Ashley takes Newcastle off the market, suggesting he was unable to find a buyer and still had the best interests of the club at heart. He ponders over the decision of making Joe Kinnear permanent manager (a 3-year deal is mooted). While the team was on target to finish outside the relegation zone and achieve a mid-table finish, a long-term deal for an inept manager was an absolute joke.

February 2009 – Kinnear has a heart attack, is taken to hospital and relieved of managerial duties. Chris Hughton takes over as interim manager, doesn’t win a game.

1st April 2009 – Shock decision and another PR stunt, Alan Shearer is brought in to save the club from relegation. Denis Wise is immediately relieved of his duties. Shearer is given only 8 games to keep the club in the Premier League. He wins only one, draws 2 and loses 5. Newcastle are relegated with a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa in a terrible performance. A few days later Mike Ashley once again puts the club up for sale to the tune of 100 million pounds.

August 2009 – Chris Hughton is appointed as caretaker manager for the start of the Championship season. This despite Mike Ashley telling media that Alan Shearer was the only man to take the club forward. However it is believed that Shearer’s honest and brutal assessment of what needed to change at the club was the reason he wasn’t given a contract. Hughton is later given a one-year contract after an impressive start to the season. A meeting is organised by the players and all who want to leave are sold and the rest stay to fight out of the Championship. Full credit to players such as Gutierrez, Nolan, Harper, Taylor, Enrique who could have moved on to better clubs.

27th October 2009 – Mike Ashley once again takes the club off the market, unable to find a buyer.

2nd May 2010 – Newcastle play their last game in the Championship against QPR and celebrate with a 1-0 win. They finish on 102 points, scoring 90 goals and had already cemented their return to the Premier League with five games to go. Hughton did a brilliant job creating a family-like atmosphere amongst the players at the club and they played some good football at home, remaining unbeaten at St James’ Park for the whole season.

6th December 2010 – Chris Hughton is sacked after a 3-1 loss away to West Brom.

So there’s a little history lesson on the mess that is Newcastle United. A club which has been spiralling downward since the departure of Bobby Robson in 2004. Hopes were high that the club had turned a corner with their re-instatement to the Premier League, despite the continuing ownership of Mike Ashley. The squad was united, strong and supportive of Chris Hughton and it was hoped that this season would be the cornerstone for a successful rise to the top end of football over the next five years.
The season started well enough, with the 6-0 victory over Aston Villa and the 5-1 home win against fierce rivals Sunderland the highlights. Andy Carroll’s rise as well as the astute signing of Cheick Tiote had brought enthusiasm amongst fans and the defensive partnership of Coloccini and Williamson, and the performances of Nolan and Barton were encouraging.
Along the way there was also a 4-3 win over Chelsea in the Carling Cup as well as a 1-1 draw against Arsenal. However since around October there was a lot of talk about Hughton’s future, who had not been offered a new contract and there was talk of an imminent dismissal.
Two points out of a possible 15 in his last five games sealed Hughton’s fate and he was then dumped by the club he saved from oblivion. There is no doubt that getting Newcastle out of the Championship was a massive achievement, and I think a lot of people underestimated it. Many clubs have been relegated and struggled to return to the Premier League (think Leeds, think Southampton, think Charlton, think Middlesbrough, think Norwich and even West Ham for a while).
It is a harder and tougher league than most people believe and not only did he bring the club out of limbo, he also created a fantastic team spirit which showed on the park and had been missing since the years when Bobby Robson was taking Newcastle into the Champions League.

Now we are without a manager who had both the players and fans’ trust and who would most surely have kept Newcastle in the Premier League. Granted he was never going to be a long-term manager of Newcastle, however I did expect him to continue until the end of the season. Then we would have had the time to sound out a new manager, give him enough time to get to know the players and also enough time to assess where he wanted to take the club. To sack Hughton in the middle of the season is reckless, stupid and yet another example of how to fuck up a football club.
When it was announced that Martin Jol had left Ajax I will admit all my love for Chris Hughton disappeared for a minute and I was glad that a proven top-class football manager was going to join the club and take the team forward. I loved his work at Tottenham and he also had a great spell at Hamburg. However it seems that his departure was just a coincidence and it is now likely that Alan Pardew will become our new manager. A fucking joke.

This is a manager who will bring no more to the job than Hughton. The statement from the club said that they wanted,

“an individual with more managerial experience is needed to take the club forward.”,

which is fair enough to a certain degree, but is Pardew actually anymore experienced that Hughton? Most people will immediately say yes, but those who know what they’re talking about will be equally bemused by this decision. Here is a brief biography of the man.

Alan Pardew started out at Reading, taking them from League Two (now League One) relegation candidates into League One (Now Championship) and missing out narrowly in the play-offs to get the club into the Premier League in the 2003/04 season.
He then resigned in order to manage West Ham whom he lead to within a match of Premiership football, losing the play-off final to Crystal Palace. The next season he succeeded, winning the Championship play-off final against Preston North-End.
He had a successful first season as manager in the Premier League, West Ham finishing 21 points above the relegation zone in 9th place and also making the FA Cup Final. The Hammers lost out to Liverpool on penalties after initially drawing 3-3.
However he was then sacked by the club in the middle of the 2005/06 season on 11th December 2006, taking over Charlton Athletic within two weeks.
He took over Charlton with the club in 19th position in the Premier League but couldn’t prevent them from being relegated. The club was expected to bounce straight back up for the 2007/08 season yet finished a disappointing 11th. The 2008/09 season saw Charlton near the bottom of the table early in the season and on 22nd November 2008 he was sacked for the second time in his career.
After a brief break in football he took over Southampton on 17th July 2009 in League One. He took them to within 7 points of a play-off place, despite a 10-point reduction for entering administration.
He was then sacked at the beginning of the 2010/11 season by the Chairman of Southampton, reportedly due to poor relations with the staff and a poor team morale at the club. Most Southampton fans were not happy at the decision and had hoped he could help the club make its way back into the Premier League.

So while Pardew has shown he can take teams from the lower leagues into the Premier League and achieve promotions, his career at Charlton is particularly uninspiring, as was his decision to turn his back on Reading to take over at West Ham. His first season in the Premier League followed with a poor first half of his second, ending in dismissal. Then he managed to take a club down from the Premier League with Charlton. So really he only has one more year or so of experience as a Premier League manager than Chris Hughton.
Hughton has been a coach in the Premier League for over 15 years at both Tottenham and Newcastle. Is being a number two for 15 years really less experienced than having been a manager in the Premier League for two years? I don’t think so.
Martin Jol, as I have said, would have been an adequate replacement, however the appointment of Pardew is a complete mystery. I don’t think he will be a bad manager and I do believe he has the ability and skill to take the club forward, however that isn’t the point. The point is that I don’t believe he will do a better job than Hughton and the effect this will have on the players could be catastrophic. They loved Hughton and they were prepared to fight for him. It is going to be a very awkward situation for Pardew to jump into, especially in the middle of the season.

Credit to Hughton though, he left the club with dignity and his reputation intact. He apparently had a conversation with Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton asking them to keep the squad unified and together for the good of the club. He left the club in a strong position and as long as the new manager doesn’t fuck around with that we should be alright.
Hughton left the club with these words…

‘I am immensely proud of my achievements with Newcastle and I enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the players, my staff and the supporters during my time as manager. We have built on last season’s momentum following promotion back up to the Barclays Premier League and have produced some excellent results to see us sitting midway in the table at this stage of the season. I now wish them and the club all the very best for the future.”

So that is where I’m going to stop. While I’m sad Hughton has left the way he has, and extremely angry with the whole Mike ‘I’m a fat prick’ Ashley saga, the new manager needs the fans support, as does the team. Hughton was never going to last long, yet the way they have disposed of him like he achieved nothing for club is reminiscent of Bobby Robson’s dismissal. Sad.
Good luck to Alan Pardew if he is the new manager, he has a tough job getting the players to play for him like they did for Hughton…

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