On Monday, I wrote a piece in support of the decision by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley to remove Chris Hughton. It proved unpopular, as I expected it would, but I stand by what I said.
It was written in the belief that Ashley would make an appointment that would take the club forward. Sadly, by moving for Alan Pardew I cannot see how this will happen. For the fans to stomach the departure of such a popular figure as Hughton, it had to be a name to set the pulse racing – someone who had the clout to lure high-calibre players to St James’ Park.
The potential options to do that were, if truth be told, thin on the ground. Possibly the two Martins – O’Neill and Jol – as there was never really a chance of Alan Shearer or Kevin Keegan going back. Instead, Newcastle have appointed a man who has had little success as a manager – his only silverware being the Football League Trophy with Southampton this year.
Pardew will stand or fall on the results Newcastle get. But it is likely to be a brief honeymoon period and the reception he receives when Liverpool arrive at St James’ on Saturday is sure to be mixed.
Newcastle fans will get behind the team, but there are sure to be open wounds about the departure of Hughton. If the team can take three points against Liverpool it will ease the transition period. But defeat could be the start of a sticky period. Following the visit of the Reds, Newcastle face a trip to a resilient Birmingham side, a home game with title-chasing Manchester City and a trip to a flying Tottenham.
Pardew has vowed to bring a blend of attacking football to the side and his first task will be to get senior players Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, Steve Harper, Andy Carroll et al onside and in tune with how he wants to take the club forward.
Whether it is the right appointment, only time will tell, but it is not what was envisaged when the rug was pulled from under Hughton on Monday.
Australia are in disarray after their defeat in Adelaide, so much so that sections of their media are calling for Shane Warne to come out of retirement.
Warne has not played Test cricket in four years, with his time now spent in the commentary box and an occasional stint at the IPL. Tantalisingly, Warne has left the door ajar by writing in his column in the Telegraph that “All I can say is that it is flattering to hear those words.”
It has caused great mirth in the UK that the Australians are in such disarray that they are even talking about rolling out the 41-year-old. But rather than scoff at the subject, England should pray that the Australians do not make the astonishing move and turn to the greatest legspinner that has played the game.
Yes he has not played Test cricket in four years and is sure to be well short of the fitness levels required of a Test match cricketer. But let’s remember that Warne at his peak was never a toned physical specimen with a body to match David Haye. And give him a couple of days in the nets and he will no doubt slip back into the old rhythm.
There is no chance of him hitting his best form, but even a Warne at 50 per cent of his powers would be a more potent threat than the likes of Nathan Hauritz and Xavier Doherty. And having played a key role in Australia’s dominance of the Test scene for over a decade, he would have a psychological effect on the England batsmen.
As mentioned earlier, fitness would not really be a concern as they could park Warne at slip – that’s where he spent much of his career and he had one of the finest pair of hands in the game.
It would make Australia a laughing stock if they turn to Warne as it would be an admission that they need the help of a long-retired spinner and let’s hope that their pride gets in the way and prevents them from making a decision that would spice up the series and hand them a chance of winning the Ashes. Because at present, they don't.
Newcastle have taken the decision to axe Chris Hughton and it has caused uproar but, and what I will say will be unpopular, I really can't see what all the fuss is about.
Yes it is harsh if you look at other examples of clubs giving their managers the chance to prove themselves, but it is the club's decision to have in charge who they see fit. Hughton will not be out of pocket as their will be a compensation package heading his way and loyalty is a two-way street as players and managers past, present and I've no doubt in the future will jump ship if a better opportunity presents itself.
So why did the club pull the rug from under the feet of a man who got them back into the Premier League?
Yes he did get them back into the Premier League but he did it with comfortably the best squad of players in the Championship. Yes he got them playing and working as a unit but that was his job.
He did a fine job but there is a suspicion he was always viewed by the Newcastle hierarchy as a stop gap. Twice he took over in a caretaker capacity and was handed the reins in the Championship at a time when continuity was needed and cloth had to be cut. He did the job and got the club promoted but the only surprise to me is that it took this long for the axe to be wielded.
He was on borrowed time before Newcastle thrashed Sunderland 5-1. To remove Hughton straight after that mighty win over their bitter rivals would have provoked an almighty backlash that owner Mike Ashley would not have cared for, prompting him to hold fire. A long unbeaten run could have resulted in a change of stance but their form has been inconsistent and they were awful against West Brom on Sunday.
There have been cries of same old trigger happy Newcastle and that nothing has changed but I feel the opposite is true. The club have learned from the past. Two seasons ago the rot was allowed to set in and by the time changes were made, it was too late to stave off relegation.
Ashley has cut Hughton free with Newcastle sat comfortably in 12th. The move hands the new manager a platform to work from and a transfer market to delve into.
It is a tough decision by Ashley and one he will be judged on, but it is a bold one.
The next decision is to bring in the right man and I'm not commenting on that, yet.
|Alex Livie found his way to ESPN after learning his trade with Sky Sports, Setanta Sports and Eurosport. He is running out of companies with sport in their name so has made it his raison d'être to ensure ESPN.co.uk has the website it deserves.|
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