Nov 10, 2010

Why Newcastle should secure the future of Chris Hughton

By Simon Glanville

Newcastle United have long been associated with a gung-ho approach when it comes to managers.

Since their entertaining phase under the great Sir Bobby Robson, the Magpies have struggled for both consistency and stability. Robson entertained the fans like Ruud Gullit and Kevin Keegan before him, but after his departure in 2004, Newcastle began a steady decline.

Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder and Sam Allardyce all departed after relatively unsuccessful spells at St James’ Park. The return of ‘King’ Keegan did not see the clubs’ fortunes improve and the bizarre appointment of former Wimbledon manager Joe Kinnear sadly didn’t have the desired effect. Even all-time top scorer Alan Shearer could not save the club from dropping out of the Premier League in 2009.

But now, it seems, Newcastle have found the right man. Chris Hughton may not be the biggest of names, but he has transformed a club that was falling fast.

Following their relegation, Newcastle were tipped to struggle in the Championship. Star men like Damien Duff, Obafemi Martins, Sebastian Bassong, Habib Beye, Michael Owen, Peter Lovenkrands and Mark Viduka all departed the club and owner Mike Ashley made clear his wish to follow suit.

Hughton was brought in as caretaker manager during the off-season, the man to fill the void until Shearer or another ‘messiah’ decided they wanted the job. He had limited funds, a hugely expectant set of fans and zero job security.

Just a few months later in October 2009, Hughton was handed the job on a permanent basis after a fantastic start to the season. He won the Manager of the Month awards in August, September and November, and strengthened his hand in January with the astute signings of Mike Williamson, Wayne Routledge and Leon Best. Fitz Hall and Patrick Van Aanholt also joined on loan.

Newcastle went on to secure automatic promotion with five games of the season remaining, securing a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. The Magpies eventually won the Championship title with a total of 102 points, a club record and the first time the club had achieved 100 or more points in any league campaign.

Rather than rest on his laurels, Hughton’s sterling work has continued. Once again he had limited funds this summer, but managed to lure the likes of Dan Gosling, Sol Campbell, Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa to St James’ Park in readiness of the 2010/2011 Premier League campaign.

The well documented off-field problems of Joey Barton and Andy Carroll could have proved a huge stumbling block to the clubs’ progress, but Hughton has managed to keep his star men in order. In fact, he can be credited with transforming their careers. Both players have flourished this season and are now being tipped for England recognition.

Despite their midweek defeat at home to Blackburn, Hughton has steered his newly-promoted side into the Premier League’s top six, winning many plaudits along the way. Just ten days ago, Hughton’s Magpies thrashed fierce north-east rivals Sunderland 5-1, nearly bettering their season-best six-goal thumping of Aston Villa.

However, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season, the former Tottenham coach is again wondering about his future. Rather than secure his signature now and let him get on with his job, Ashley and MD Derek Llambias are airing on the side of caution.

Newcastle are a tightly run ship these days; no longer do they throw money away like it’s going out of fashion. They are reluctant to give Hughton a long-term deal now, when it could all go horribly wrong over the coming months.

Put simply, Hughton deserves better. Newcastle would not be where they are now without him. It may be wise for the club to be cautious, but men like Hughton should be rewarded for the success they bring.

Hughton is man in limbo, and although he won’t publicly admit it, he can’t be happy with his current contractual situation. His fantastic record at Newcastle will not have gone unnoticed elsewhere, and if the Magpies don’t secure him soon, who could blame him for moving on.

1 comment:

Jack Battersby said...

Very good piece!