Pardew new Newcastle boss but Hughton axe is a gamble
There is little disagreement amongst Newcastle supporters and general football fans alike: Chris Hughton has been unjustly treated by the Toon hierarchy, led by owner Mike Ashley.
Hughton, 51, was removed from his role as Newcastle manager by Ashley on Monday just seven months after he led the club to an immediate return to the Premier League. He leaves the club sitting 12th in the table, four points above the relegation zone.
Newcastle did suffer a disheartening 3-1 defeat against West Brom at the Hawthorns on Saturday but in the context of this year’s league campaign it was nothing more than a small blemish.
For the Toon faithful, the clear highlight of the season to date came in their side’s resounding 5-1 victory over bitter rivals Sunderland. But other impressive results under Hughton this term include a 6-0 drubbing of Aston Villa, victory away to Chelsea in the Carling Cup and a remarkable 1-0 win at Emirates stadium.
Despite Newcastle having managed just two points in their last five games it is difficult to pinpoint the credentials that Hughton has been deemed to lack in comparison to newly-appointed boss Alan Pardew.
“If they are going to fire someone as good as Chris, they have to then bring in a big name, someone who has won trophies,” as Newcastle’s Spanish defender Jose Enrique put it earlier this week. “If they just bring in someone similar, it’s a joke.”
Pardew, who signed a five-and-a-half year deal with the St James’ Park club on Thursday, boasts a respectable record in management having achieved automatic promotion with Reading to the old First Division in 2002. Three years later he enjoyed victory in the Championship play-off final with West Ham and in the following season managed to consolidate their position as a top flight club as well as guide them to an FA Cup final.
The 49-year-old manager parted company with Southampton in August after 14 months in charge. While at St Mary’s Pardew managed to secure his only title to date when the Saints triumphed over Carlisle United to win the Johnstone Paint Trophy at Wembley.
An achievement, yes, but when Enrique spoke of recruiting a manager who has won trophies, the former Villarreal defender was presumably referring to league titles or European successes – not, with respect to Pardew’s achievement, a second rate domestic cup.
One of the excuses reeled out by the Newcastle board was Hughton’s lack of judgement in the transfer market, with Ashley seemingly particularly discontented with the recruitment of striker Leon Best and defender James Perch.
Yet if the retail entrepreneur felt uncomfortable entrusting his own funds to Hughton then an appointment of a director of football strategy, such as Damien Comolli’s at Liverpool, would have been a placating solution.
As Toon legend Alan Shearer highlighted on Tuesday, this season is about survival for Newcastle. Hughton had earned the right to prove himself over the entirety of this season after having turned the Tyneside club’s fortunes around in a little over 18 months.
Hughton’s sacking is a gamble which may simply inflict yet more misery upon the supporters of a club who have already endured a difficult three years under the stewardship of Ashley.