“He’s out there operating without any decent restraint”
Chris Hughton who took Newcastle back to the Premiership in an amazing turnaround and managed to keep them at a respectable level this season was given the boot.
The Magpies thumped Aston Villa, satisfyingly tore Sunderland apart 5-1 in the derby, recorded their first win against Arsenal in five years, and prolonged Chelsea’s angst last week. And all by playing attractive attacking football.
Newcastle, a club blighted by unglued player personnel, for the first time in a long time, seemed like they had figured out that crucial balancing act. And no small part because of Hughton’s calming demeanour.
But this run in form was not enough for Mike Ashley who seems to have suffered from another delusion of grandeur after being reasonably quiet for most of the promotion season. It was the club and Hughton making news, not him. He was tired of being low key and wanted to shock. Who knows what churns in the mind of a mad man? Maybe he’s finally gone all Colonel Kurtz?
This was Ashley’s decision and not the fans who were vocally behind Hughton. But Newcastle always seems to skate on thin ice. Two years ago, Ashley was a pariah – afraid to attend matches in his own club grounds and escorted everywhere by bodyguards following Kevin Keegan’s departure. Only his removal as owner would assuage fans leading him to making manic pronouncements of an imminent sale. Predictably, they never came to fruition as he stuck to his price demands.
Today, he fired a popular manager without heed. It remains to be seen whether fans make him pay – again.
Without Hughton, there is every chance that Andy Carroll and Joey Barton might lose their relative state of equanimity and go all apocalyptic. Dooming Newcastle for good. We can point at foreign money corrupting English clubs but Ashley makes a very good case for moral relativity. And in all of this a quietly effective English manager exits the door. It is indeed a sorry tale. At the end of this is this: “Does Mike Ashley know what he wants?”