Be honest, did anyone ever really think Chris Hughton was going to be Newcastle United’s manager for the long-term? I certainly didn’t. If Joe Kinnear had his health, or Alan Shearer was able to work with Mike Ashley, then truthfully, Hughton would never have been offered the job. He was only ever a stopgap appointment.
However, it’s impossible, and would be wrong, to deny Hughton’s success during his tenure. Under difficult circumstances, his understated manner brought relative stability to St. James’ Park. For me, alongside winning promotion from The Championship last season, his biggest achievement was being humble enough to withstand Mike Ashley’s regular undermining of him. He did it with great dignity too.
Football is a cruel sport though, and one largely bereft of loyalty.
Yes, Newcastle has had a solid start to the season, but their form has been bi-polar. For every emphatic victory (Everton, Sunderland and Arsenal), there has been an underwhelming defeat (Blackpool and of course, West Brom) to go with it.
Just four points clear of the relegation zone, and boasting an unenvious home record, survival is by no means certain. Quite simply, the north-east club can’t keep relying on brave yet unexpected victories to counterbalance losses to teams nearby, it's just unsustainable. Rightfully concerned, Ashley felt compelled to make a change. And in doing so ahead of the crucial festive period, it’s a move that could prove decisive.
Ultimately, the Newcastle owner will live or die by this decision - but not before the end of the season. Upon appointing a new manager, should the team consolidate and retain its Premier League status, however harsh on Hughton, he will have been proved right.
But should the players succumb to a relegation dog fight, Toon fans will rightfully question the judgement of the ever controversial Ashley. It seems some things never change.
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