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There wasn’t a great deal of positive gloss that could be put upon Newcastle United’s thumping at the hands of Arsenal in the League Cup on Wednesday night. Comprehensively outplayed by a team that is starting to look more than capable of ending its trophy drought by the end of this season, Newcastle supporters were offered a reminder of how difficult this season could yet become for them and, in the press, the subtle yet dread sound of knives being drawn for manager Chris Hughton has become audible. Just as many of the club’s supporters may have begun to hope that the element of soap opera that had dogged the club for longer than anyone cares to remember had begun to subside, so the rumours begin again.
It is in itself a testimony to Hughton’s qualities as a manager that the absolute chaos in which Newcastle United found itself a year and a half ago. After the ruinous decision to appoint Alan Shearer for the relegation run-in at the end of a desperate season ended in the club dropping out of the Premier League altogether, it felt as if this relegation could just be the beginning of their difficulties. Hughton, however, pulled the team together and his achievement in getting promoted back into the Premier League as champions at a canter cannot be understated. Newcastle supporters, who had spent a long time away from the second tier of English football, may have taken away the impression that the Championship was easy – supporters of last year’s relegated teams, the highest of whom, Burnley, currently lays in seventh place in the table, may seek to disagree.
Newcastle have made a solid start to their Premier League season. They are in ninth place in the table, beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the League Cup and put six goals past Aston Villa in their first home match of the season. Their defeat against Arsenal was not a great result (it’s difficult to imagine any home defeat being regarded as anything positive), but it was the exception rather than the rule in so far as this season has gone for them so far, so how and why have these rumours have started? There seems to be absolutely no stomach amongst Newcastle supporters for Hughton to be replaced, but what we seem to be witnessing here is a perfect storm of over-exuberant media speculation and a club management that still seems incapable of not putting their collective foot in it when the opportunity arises.
The origin of the story seems to have been from The People, where former Newcastle Chronicle writer Alan Oliver continued what many Newcastle supporters consider to be a vendetta against the club. Oliver’s assertions were comprehensively demolished in this article on the Newcastle fan site NUFC Blog, but by this time a story that didn’t have anything beyond one man’s idle speculation behind it had taken on legs of its own, with the Daily Mail opening with the almost nonsensical comment that, “Owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias, who are desperate to retain their Barclays Premier League status this season, are growing increasingly jittery about their early season form”. Following Wednesday night’s defeat at the hands of Arsenal, the club felt compelled to issue a press release on the subject.
We might have thought that, by now, those running Newcastle United would be more familiar with the conventions of the game than they seem to have been over the last few days or so. The “vote of confidence” has taken on a life of its own now, to the extent that we could be forgiven for believing that club owners now feel compelled to issue one when they have already decided to sack a manager. All that Newcastle United had to do after the Arsenal match was make no comment. As it stands, their club now goes into a derby match against Sunderland with a feeling of uncertainty in the air and the feeling that a storm has now blown up out of nothing that will only, if anything, have a destabilising effect upon the team.
The irony is that Chris Hughton, of all people, doesn’t deserve any of this. There has been considerable talk of Oliver being motivated by having been frozen out of St James Park by Mike Ashley. This may or may not be true, but if there is much that can be criticised about Ashley and Llambias, why would this hack choose to go after one of the ever diminishing number of good guys left in the game? Of course, being a good guy isn’t enough in itself to keep the manager’s position at a Premier League club, but the fact that Hughton stabilised the club after relegation when the sky could have fallen in upon them, got them promoted back into the Premier League without even really breaking his breath and stabilised them in mid-table after their first three months back indicates that he has the qualities required to be the best man for the job in abundance.
Something has certainly changed at Newcastle United over the last twelve months. There is no expectation of instant success at the club any more, and the chastening experience of a year outside of the Premier League seems to have taught the club’s supporters a very valuable lesson. The fact of the matter is that no good would come from replacing their manager and that to even be having this debate about the manager of a newly-promoted club that is in the top half of the Premier League season as autumn starts to turn into winter is more a reflection on the hysterical press than on the qualities of the manager himself. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect any better from those that run Newcastle United that they could manage to make a hash of some idle gossip following an almost entirely baseless tabloid press story. Fortunately, the supporters of the club are too smart to take much notice of such rot.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
I quite agree, leave the guy alone to get on with managing our club.
Just a point though, the instigator of this rumour (a few days before Oliver in the People) was none other than our best friends at the Daily Mail namely Colin Young. We can alwasy rely on them to stick the boot in.
I find the media turning on CH inevitable and sad. However no matter how good a guy he is the displays have shown a lack of tactical awareness and strength over a very strong dressing room. More over the constant defence of players displays contempt for the paying public. The correct stance towards Perch, Best and players who have displayed major drops in form for prolonged periods is to take them out of the situation and deal with them behind closed doors. Not to come out and lavish praise on unacceptable performances on the pitch. This tact has either displayed a lack of managerial skill or his dog and white stick are in the drug out. As much as it disgusts me we should have taken the example of Sunderland once a manager gets you to a particular point the ambitions of the club demand a change. CH should have been given a coaching job for life with the club. My comments are not a reaction to the position we find ourselves in now as I held this view at the end of last season after watching displays with little or no change when things were not going well for 80 minutes. Fortunately we gained a lot of points by grinding out results the premier league is a different ball game. People forget CH`s record as caretaker manager in the dark season. I am sorry if this upsets people but the club should have made the hard decisions in the summer and not let the media bandwagon rule the roost.
Alan fabrication Oliver is a poor reporter, always has been, always will be. CH is decent manager and a fantanstic human being. The Star had an article this week which was equally distasteful.Of course we need to strenghthen, a clinical finisher to play alongside AC and a good right back would be nice, but with ashley we are unlikely to buy quality, this man is the root of most of what goes wrong at SJP, until he goes we will not get any higher than 8th at best.
though i am not a fan of newcastle, i have the atmost respect of the coach, he looks a decent man and a gentleman. he needs all the support he can get and lossing to the gunners wasnt easy with a derby match coming good luck coach and all the best. there are few gentleman like you left in this world
Aren’t you just doing exactly what you’re accusing the press of doing?
Not a ‘toon fan but thought I’d comment anyway, hope you don’t mind.
The trouble here is that the newspaper journalists, and I think sports journalists are some of the worst, don’t just consider it their duty to report the news but to *make* it as well.
If they can’t find something interesting enough to report on… well just make something up.
Want to speculate about managers getting the sack? Well that’s “all part of the game” isn’t it?
The problem is us, the fans. We keep giving these people the fuel they need to keep going.
Don’t buy the newspapers that print this trash, don’t post on their websites and as hard as it may be, bite your lips and don’t talk about their rubbish rumours (after all, that just gives them a “fans rush to comment on ‘under fire’ manager” headline for tomorrow’s paper too.
I completely agree with RobMs comment. This is a story (the paper’s I mean not this blog) out of nothing. I don’t even agree that the club have made a hash of it – why shouldn’t a club decide to negcotiate a new contract at the end of the year, it’s up to them. Their only mistake was probably in being too candid – better to just say that the manager has their full support and a new deal is an internal matter they have no obligation to discuss in public.
[…] weeks, even though their form so far has, for a newly-promoted club, been reasonable. We wrote at the end of October that there was speculation concerning his future, but the common assent at the time was that Ashley […]
I think every toon supporter wanted Hughton to be left alone and do his job but, almost like clockwork. the board stepped in and sacked a promising manager and made a laughing stock of the club and its supporters.
The only positive (if any) is that Alan Pardew has kept on the togerthness of the team which Hughton built.