Newcastle and the Managerial Circus
December 8, 2010 3 Comments
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With Newcastle United sitting nicely in mid table after 16 games, now ex-manager Chris Hughton might have thought “I’ve done a good job here” after big wins against Aston villa and Sunderland as well as decent results against Chelsea and Arsenal. But owner Mike Ashley had seemingly different ideas.
Two seasons ago the unthinkable happened for Newcastle; they were relegated. After a long hard season with former club heroes and ex-managers trying to keep them afloat, a final day 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa saw the Toon Army relegated for the first time in 16 years. But had the writing been on the wall for a while?
During the five year reign of Sir Bobby Robson, between 1999 and 2004, Newcastle finally started to fulfil their potential. A Premier League high finish of third seemed to finally start paying back the fans of the club who had been so famously loyal. But at the start of the 2004-2005 season, the Magpies had a couple of poor results and the club legend and fans favourite was forced out in just August of that season. All of this after taking Newcastle to the Champions league and F.A. Cup final. This was surely the beginning of Newcastle’s downfall.
Graeme Souness followed for a bumpy time at the black and whites. In his 16 month spell in charge he managed to fall out with one of the clubs best strikers in Craig Bellamy, he had to act as teacher between the two boys fighting in the play ground, (Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer), and he spent £47 million on transfers. £17 million of that money went on injury prone striker Michael Owen, and even at that time that sort of money seemed too much. He only managed a disappointing 14th place in 2005, the money he spent did not improve the sides fortunes and he was sacked in February of the next year, sitting just above the relegation zone and his managerial career in tatters. Many Newcastle fans blame Souness for the clubs demise still due to his waste of money and poor man management.
After the turbulent spell of Souness stability was surely needed. The club began its search for a new boss, and with Glenn Roeder installed as interim manager in the mean time. He quietly got on with his job that season, leading the side up to 7th in the Premier League, and was rightly given the chance to lead the side on a permanent basis in May 2006. During his reign Newcastle were awarded the 2006 Intertoto Cup, the first bit of silverware for the club in 37 years. But the following season it all went wrong for Roeder. A ridiculously long injury list including Michael Owen, led to the team falling sharply down the table, and it all getting too much for the former caretaker manager who resigned in May of 2007.
During Roeder’s time in charge we saw Alan Shearer take his first non-playing position at the club following his heroic playing career in the black and white stripes. The Newcastle legend was appointed as Sporting Ambassador for the club, a role that was mainly honorary after being caretaker assistant manager for Roeder’s Interim stage. Shearer was then relieved of his duties, whatever they were, in September 2008 due to disagreements with the way Mike Ashley was running the club. The resignation of the clubs 5th manager in 4 years, ‘King’ Kevin Keegan, seemed to be one incident too much for Shearer, who was outpsoken as ever about his feelings towards the club’s owner.
Big Sam Allardyce was the next solution for the sinking ship of Newcastle. He was appointed almost immediately after Glenn Roeder left the club in May 2007 and promised a big change. Straight away he axed six first team players, and was planning a radical overhaul of the playing staff. He signed 7 big names in the transfer window including Mark Viduka, Alan Smith and Joey Barton, who he thought would take the club back to he heights of Sir Bobby’s reign. The plan however did not come together as planned. The side looked disjointed and his ideas didn’t seem to come off. The loyal Magpies’ fans started to lose their rag and protests were fervant and frequent. It all became too muc h byJanuary 2008 and Big Sam left his post by mutual consent.
The club was left wondering where to go next. What more could be done? Allardyce was one of the country’s leading managers and came with an impressive C.V, but everything they tried seemed to go wrong. The fact that they never gave anyone long enough to change the thinking of the players and wanted instant success probably had a lot to do with it. Things can’t be changed in a few months, it takes much more time to build stability, but still Newcastle seemed unable to see this.
After the short eight months of Sam Allrdyce, the fans were growing increasingly frustrated with Mike Ashley and his running of the club. The owner decided to make a bold decision to get them back on his side. Appointing club hero and fans favourite Kevin Keegan, seemed to be the ideal option. The decision seemed to lift the club and with the fans back on side and the players starting to perform, ‘King Kev’ saved the Magpies from the drop that season. That summer the club finally seemed to be moving forward; the fans were happy with the manager and the players seemed to be playing much better football. Additions to the board and back room however were unsettling Keegan. Dennis Wise was installed as Director of football to look at young talent over Europe and the World for possible signings. But that wasn’t how Keegan saw it. It all eventually got too much for the volatile manager to deal with, and he left the club after just eight months in charge. Mass protests from the fans followed, with Mike Ashley again the target.
Mike Ashley knew he was fighting a losing battle and his decisions were costing the club. The protests were enough to make him put the club up for sale.
During all of the unrest a forgotten man was installed as the new interim manager of the Magpies. Joe Kinnear the former Wimbledon boss was the man charged with the task of steadying the very shakey ship that was Newcastle. Another turbulent managerial spell followed for the club, with Kinnear having clashes with the press and other managers and players which did not help his already poor health. In February 2009 Joe Kinnear had to leave his post due to heart surgery and has yet to return to football management. This left assistant Chris Hughton in charge of Newcastle to try and stop the downward spiral of the club.
Hughton followed the trend of managers who couldn’t restore the club to its glory days, so owner Mike Ashley tried once again to improve the mood and fortunes of the club by installing another former club legend. Alan Shearer, a man who had earlier criticised owner Ashley for his treatment of former managers, was given eight games to save the black and whites from the drop. He could not, and Newcastle were relegated to the Championship in a state of ruin.
Shearer did not return as manager the following season, feeling he could not work for the club while it was so confused. The job was instead given to a man who had never had any first team managerial experience, Chris Hughton. Always seen as an understudy, Hughton decided this was his time to shine and turn Newcastle around. And what a job he did. Newcastle ran away with the Championship title and eventually won it by a staggering 11 points, playing some quality football on the way, with Hughton even managing to get the best out of players such as Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton. This season in the Premier League Newcastle at times have been a joy to watch, their six nil thrashing of Aston Villa at home and the 5-1 derby day defeat of Sunderland are surely massive ticks on the C.V. of any manager. Add that to the big 1-0 win away at Arsenal, and the home draw to Chelsea, the results and performances have been a massive plus and have put them a respectable 12th in the Premier League. All this after coming up from the Championship is a brilliant return. I admit some of their performances have been up and down but the transition from one league to another, at times, can be a hard one. Also Chris Hughton’s man management of some of his key players should have been applauded. The rise of Andy Carroll has been a delight, not just for fans of Newcastle but also for fans of the National side.
All of the above points seem to make the decision to remove Hughton even more confusing. A team that is playing well and not struggling to score is surely a happy environment that should be kept consistent. The decision to change the manager again and again seems to make Newcastle even more of a laughing stock to the World of football. The Length of this blog just shows how many managers the club have had in such a short time and surely stability can’t be reached until this is addressed. Mike Ashley needs to be removed from his position at the head of the club, and until this happens I can’t see how Newcastle can move forward and up the table. And, in turn, move away from the laughing stock tag that they have been given.
As for Chris Hughton, I think it is a disgrace the way he has been treated after he turned around the fortunes of one of England’s biggest clubs. He should be applauded for the way he got Newcastle playing positively again, and I hope he can hold his head high and not be brought down by stupid decisions that are beyond his control. I hope a club realises the good work he did at Newcastle and gives him a chance again.
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