The Premiership season has so far been a classic for the neutral. Every team has claimed a scalp, every team has lost – apart from Man United who’ve only won once away from home – and there is no predictability. Perhaps the most telling aspect of this new-found competition has been the lack of managerial sackings. Until the end of Hughton, surprisingly sacked by Newcastle on Monday 6th December, every manager that had started the season was still in place.
The small points gap between the top six and the bottom six allows each manager to lay credible claim to “only needing a couple of victories” and they would fly up the table. They’d be right. Roy Hodgson, Avram Grant, Roberto Mancini, and more recently Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti (who won the double last year), are managers who have been on the brink at one time or another. Chris Hughton was the man appointed at Newcastle after they had been relegated from the Premiership in a season of three managers. Keegan, Kinnear and Shearer were all at the helm, they all failed to keep the club in the top division and they all struggled against the man in charge and chairman Mike Ashley (Shearer left the club and had been assured the job would still be his in the championship until it was announced Hughton would be the new manager, Kinnear left for health reasons and Keegan left citing a lack of control over transfers). In the stakes of bad treatment, in a competition that involved a topless fat chairman downing pints of warm lager, eating a rank kebab and doing his worst stinking turd all over the managers head, then Chris Hughton would be the bookies favourite. Hughton’s sacking demonstrates a total lack of logic. On any level. Even on the level stated by the club after the sacking,
“Regrettably, the board now feels that an individual with more managerial experience is needed to take the club forward. The task of appointing a new manager now begins. An announcement will be made shortly regarding transitional arrangements pending the appointment of a successor.”
So let’s break that down.
I’ll refrain from swearing, but I’m thinking of something that rhymes with duck and cloth. If you’re going to make a change, don’t patronise the guy you’re sacking by saying it’s regrettable. The fans know you don’t regret what you’re doing. The press know the same and the outgoing manager – who you’ve not adequately rewarded for regaining promotion at the first attempt – certainly knows you don’t regret it. The Newcastle board (or probably Mike Ashley in a dictatorial ‘this is my version of championship manager and I’ll do what I want to’ type way) refused to give Hughton a contract. He doesn’t even get a pay-off. His managerial record reads: played one full season = one promotion.
Hughton was eventually handed the position as manager permanently and took Newcastle to the top of the Championship. They rarely looked back, securing promotion before the final day with 102 points – 11 more than West Brom in the second automatic spot.
Played nearly half a season in the Premiership and he’s beat Arsenal at the Emirates, thumped Aston Villa 6-0 and fierce rivals Sunderland 5-1, drew with Chelsea (after beating them at Stamford Bridge in a 4-3 thriller in the Coca-Carling-Worthington Cup Challenge) and got 3 points at Goodison Park. On the less memorable side, they’ve lost to West Brom away, Blackpool at home and got thumped 5-1 themselves away at Bolton = Better than their wildest dreams might be a bit over the top, but some memorable moments nevertheless (13 points off the top and 4 points of the relegation zone in 12th position with 19 points after 16 games).
So it’s not regrettable. What about the next line,
“…the board now feels that an individual with more managerial experience is needed to take the club forward. The task of appointing a new manager now begins.”
They weren’t joking. The man they’ve selected to replace him certainly has more managerial experience. Quite a bit of the time it’s been ‘bad’ managerial experience though.
He got off to a good start at Reading, before being poached by West Ham. He then got promoted, like Hughton, and managed to reach the F.A. Cup Final, another fine achievement – before it all started to go a bit pear-shaped.
Then he went to Charlton Athletic.
He took over with Charlton in 19th place in the Premier League, with just 12 points and a –20 goal difference, the lowest in the league. Although Charlton’s form improved under Pardew, he was unable to keep Charlton up, resulting in the first relegation of his career, both as a player and manager.After an inept display in a 5-2 home defeat to Sheffield United hundreds of supporters remained for more than an hour to condemn their manager, chanting, “We want Pardew out” and “We want our club back” after Charlton had slipped into the Championship’s bottom three. On 22 November 2008, Pardew parted company with Charlton by mutual consent.
Not looking too good at the moment. Next up was Southampton.
Pardew led Southampton to the 2010 Football League Trophy Final at Wembley, where they won 4–1 against Carlisle United. The win gave the club their first trophy since 1976. Five months later Pardew was dismissed by the club amidst reports of low staff morale and conflicts between Pardew and club chairman, Nicola Cortese.
The phrase “low staff morale” and “conflicts between Pardew and club chairman” must’ve been the clincher for Mike Ashley when he was glancing over the list of potential candidates. Or maybe it was this chart explaining his win/loss record at a number of clubs.
Hardly gets the juices flowing. The apathy, or maybe deep-seated anger will fall upon Ashley first and then Pardew if the results don’t come. The 5 year contract is just the icing on the piss-taking cake. The Geordie fans will be clear, and maybe this could be the last act in the Mike Ashley/Newcastle United’s ownership soap opera. Here’s Steve Wraith, editor of the Toon Talk fanzine, who says it best…
“He will be facing the wrath of 52,000 fans at the weekend. It’s not his fault but let’s hope he can do what people don’t expect him to do, as his CV doesn’t make for good reading.”
Or have Sky Sports summed it up even better?
Sky Sports reported that of 40,000 fans taking part in a poll on who should become the next manager, Pardew only received the backing of 5.5% of voters.
That kind of non-support is going to be a challenge of the highest order. I just suspect that if Pardew doesn’t make a success of it, and quickly, Mike Ashley will be following the new manager out of St James’ Park at the same time. If not by mini-Geordie revolution, then having – at long last – sold the club, probably at a loss and after discovering it’s very expensive to play fantasy football games at the country’s real life top football clubs.