Given yesterday’s developments, it would be ridiculously easy to ‘play to the gallery’ and paint Newcastle owner Mike Ashley as some kind of slavering, cack-handed, tactless, abhorrent, manipulative, back-stabbing, flesh-pressing barrel of an ingrate – but we’ll leave that for another time.
As you’re probably aware by now, Ashley and his cohorts made the risible decision to can manager Chris Hughton yesterday – the very same Christopher William Gerard Hughton that, in the space of 16 short months, almost single-handedly rescued Newcastle United from the cusp of imminent capitulation and dragged them by the jaffas back to the relative security of English football’s top table.
After admirably playing their way out of a one-year slum in the Championship, Newcastle are currently sitting pretty in 12th spot in the Premier League, with a healthy running points total that puts them as-near-as-damn-it equidistant between Europe and the relegation zone – a position obviously deemed sub-par by Ashley and his gluttonous board.
As ever, Hughton responded (via the League Managers’ Association) to his sacking with measured dignity by merely defending his record at Newcastle:
“We have built on last season’s momentum following promotion back up to the Premier League and have produced some excellent results to see us sitting midway in the table.
I am immensely proud of my achievements with Newcastle and I enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the players, my staff and the supporters during my time as manager.
I now wish them and the club all the very best for the future. The termination of my contract is now in the hands of the LMA and I will therefore be making no further comment at this stage.”
The tenuous official line on Hughton’s sudden dismissal is that the Newcastle hierarchy came to the hasty consensus that he does not currently have the ‘managerial experience’ required to ‘take the club forward’ – though the cynic may suggest that, by not handing Hughton a long-term deal during the first few months of this season, the wheels of his demise have been in motion since the end of last campaign.
Ashley is now poised to appoint his sixth manager of a tumultuous three-year period on Tyneside, with a flock of ‘usual suspects’ already being proffered as potential candidates.
The Pardews and Curbishleys of this world have begun to state their interest, but it is neither them, nor other hopefuls Martin O’Neill, Paul Lambert, Lee Clark and Kevin Keegan, who have been bestowed with the ‘bookies’ favourite’ tag – with that honour instead being reserved for gruff Dutchman Martin Jol, who left Ajax in what can only be described as ‘conveniently co-incidental’ circumstances a matter of hours after Hughton was sacked yesterday.
Ajax released a statement shortly after, reassuring supporters that the two camps had parted ways ‘by mutual consent’ though Jol posted a brief update on the Eredivisie side’s official site, claiming that the crushing weight of expectation at the club was the overriding factor in his decision to quit:
“With pain in my heart I say goodbye to this wonderful club. We started something last summer that I would have finished.
But I have come to realise that the expectations after last season were too high. We cannot meet such expectations.”
Reports are already swirling in press circles that Newcastle want to have Hughton’s successor in place in time to prepare for Saturday’s Premier League fixture with Liverpool, and Jol has seen his odds slashed from 40/1 to odds-on favourite to be officially sworn in at some point between then and now.