I like Newcastle; it’s one of my favourite British cities. I have family who live up there and I always like going up for a visit. I like the people, the accent, and the fact that Geordies are seemingly impervious to cold weather and the atmosphere in general.
I also like the football team and if you ever get the chance to go to St. James’ Park, then you should definitely go as it is a great place to watch football and enjoy the matchday atmosphere. Newcastle United are one of the grand old names of English football and I have many happy memories of their teams of the 90’s under Kevin Keegan. Newcastle also provided the opposition in the most entertaining match I’ve ever been to, when Liverpool beat them 4-3 (the first time) in a topsy-turvy match at Anfield in 1996. I was pleased to see them back in the Premier League this season.
Unfortunately, Newcastle United, like many other teams, have the handicap of being run by a total idiot (not going to go into him in great detail, that requires its own post).
Newcastle do have the unfortunate tendency to do something stupid just when things are looking good. They’ll sign a player that no other club wants for a vastly over inflated transfer fee, they’ll give ridiculous contacts to players and keep paying them even when they go to jail.
Where they excel in stupidity is with their managers. They’ll find a way to undermine and drive out the good managers they have. That is usually followed up by a high-profile search followed by the appointment of someone completely unsuited to the job.
That is exactly what happened to Kevin Keegan who made an emotional return to Newcastle in 2008. Owner Mike Ashley also appointed Dennis Wise in the newly created and badly-defined role of Director of Football. The wheels well and truly came off when Wise signed Uruguayan Ignacio Gonzalez against Keegan’s wishes and Keegan resigned. After some big names being touted as potential Newcastle managers, they ended up with Joe Kinnear, who hadn’t worked in four years.
Well, they’ve gone and done it again by sacking Chris Hughton, the man who brought them back up to the Premier League and has them sitting in mid-table, well in striking range of the European places.
Hughton probably had one of the most difficult jobs in football when he took charge of Newcastle after the ill-fated appointment of Alan Shearer in a vain effort to keep Newcastle in the Premier League. He had to pick up the pieces of that disastrous season and start again.
He managed to operate amidst all the confusion and uncertainty that surrounded Newcastle’s off-season and was able to keep a talented team together, unite the dressing room and get them playing well despite all the uncertainty. Newcastle won last season’s Championship at a canter.
He has turned Andy Carroll from a talented, if a bit inconsistent prospect into one of the Premier League’s top up-and-coming players and also an international player. He was able to reinvigorate the career of Joey Barton, turning him from a pariah to the cornerstone of the team and he managed to get the best out of other players who had under-performed horribly last time Newcastle were in the Premier League.
It’s not as if Newcastle’s season has been a disaster up to this point anyway, they have won away at Arsenal and Everton and are currently sitting above teams whose managers regularly get praised for the work that they have done. Ian Holloway is getting the plaudits for his admirable work at Blackpool, after bringing them up to the Premier League and dong well. Hughton did the same with Newcastle but that didn’t seem to be enough for the board.
They seem to forget that Newcastle are a promoted club, not the title-challenging team of the 90’s and have to find their feet in the league once again. The aim this season should be survival; anything else is merely a bonus.
There may be an argument to be found in Newcastle’s home form, which for the large part has been poor. They have had big wins against Aston Villa and Sunderland and held Chelsea to a draw, but they have only taken two points from Blackpool, Wigan, Blackburn, Stoke and Fulham this season.
Rumours about Hughton’s long-term future have been rife all season. His contract was due to expire at the end of this season and the board didn’t look like offering him any kind of extension. There were real whispers of his imminent departure that were silenced after the emphatic derby win against Sunderland and the win at the Emirates. It looks as though the board were just waiting for the next bad run of results before getting rid of him.
It looks as though Ashley regarded Hughton as a good coach rather than a manager. In his eyes, and those of the board, the reason Hughton did so well last season in the Championship was that Newcastle’s squad were fundamentally too strong for that league and they only needed to be properly organised to succeed. What Ashley seemingly wants is a ‘proper’ manager.
The early reports suggested that one of the reasons for Hughton’s dismissal was in part due to his low-key approach. Newcastle seemingly want a high-profile manager to bring all the publicity and televised games that they feel they deserve. Hughton isn’t a man who courts the headlines. He isn’t a man who provides the media with a mine of quotes.
Newcastle have today (9th December) appointed their new manager, this high-profile candidate that will transform the clubs fortunes and push them up the league.
It’s Alan Pardew! What’s more, he’s been given a five and a half year contract.
That’s the same Alan Pardew last seen being fired as manager of League One Southampton. The man who was last seem in the Premier League being unable to save Charlton from relegation.
A man who’s media profile such that he is effectively persona non grata with TV companies after his last appearance on Match of the Day 2 in February 09’, when, analysing a challenge between Michael Essien and then Manchester City player Ched Evans, he stated Essien “absolutely rapes” Evans after the Chelsea midfielder outmuscled Evans in a challenge. Pardew has not appeared as an analyst since.
It’s hard to see what Pardew can bring to the table that Hughton cannot. In a poll in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle yesterday, only 2% of Newcastle fans wanted him as manager (I’m surprised it was that many). Most wanted either Martin O’Neill, who was not a candidate or Martin Jol, who is a friend of Hughton and had ruled himself out for that reason.
Pardew certainly doesn’t have an easy start with Newcastle’s next four games being against Liverpool, Man City, Spurs and Birmingham. He also has to try and earn the trust of his squad, some of which expressed their disappointment about the sacking of Hughton publicly.
Only time will tell if Pardew will be a success. He has the makings of a very good team at Newcastle. He is in somewhat of a no-win situation as if he does well it’s with Hughton’s team and if he fails it’s all on him.
So Newcastle fans will have to wait to see if Pardew is going to be the success the board evidently believe he will be or this seasons Brian Laws. One thing looks apparent though.
Newcastle have done it again.