The life of football managers is seemingly becoming an impossible one. This time last week Newcastle United were sitting as a newly promoted team in a respectable eleventh place with nineteen points, four clear of the relegation zone. They had defeated Aston Villa comprehensively, held the champions Chelsea to a draw and defeated Arsenal at the Emirates. Apparently though, this was not enough and manager Chris Hughton was sacked by controversial owner Mike Ashley.
This is not the first time a manager that a manager has been sacked after seemingly achieving what was expected of them. Mark Hughes at Manchester City chasing fourth place last year comes to mind. So is there anything managers, and top flight managers in particular, can do to ensure they are given a fair chance, and is there any way at all that Newcastle can expect to have a long-term manager after this senseless decision?
Over the last two seasons chairmen of Premier League clubs have made some incredible decisions. As mentioned already Mark Hughes was sacked with Manchester City potentially on course for a top four finish. The man who replaced him, Roberto Mancini, failed to achieve that target and now ironically faces the same kind of pressure which Hughes faced a year ago after an average start to the season. The biggest season for managerial casualties was 2008/2009 where there were an incredible twelve managerial changes throughout the season.
Chelsea were the worse culprits with Avram Grant being sacked and Luiz Felipe Scolari getting the same treatment before Guus Hiddink temporarily took charge until the end of the season. With managers’ contracts appearing to mean nothing anymore they face a very difficult task; most clubs want an immediate impact from a manager and will not accept anything less than success in as many competitions as possible.
This brings me to the particular case of Newcastle United. They of all clubs have a shocking track record of hiring and sacking managers. Since 2004, and the sacking of Sir Bobby Robson, several managers, including Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder, Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer, have been shunted in and out of the managerial revolving doors. It appeared that after Chris Hughton was put in charge and immediately returned the club to the Premier League that Newcastle had found the stability they had been searching for but after looking at the Magpies’ history of managerial sackings in the past years it should come as no surprise that he was sacked.
As Alan Shearer said; “Nothing surprises me at Newcastle anymore”, perhaps showing that while Ashley is in charge there will be no stability at the club regardless of who the manager is. However, one question that came out of this sacking was who would be brave enough to take on the role of being the manager of a club with such a poor record of sacking their managers?
At first it seemed that Martin Jol, who co-incidentally resigned from his position as manager of Ajax on the same day, was the front-runner but several other names were mentioned as well. Martin O’Neill was the man who many Newcastle fans wanted to see given a chance and Alan Curbishley’s name was also mentioned. However, Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley decided to appoint the former Reading, West Ham, Charlton and Southampton manager Alan Pardew on a mammoth five-and-a-half year deal.
To many fans he was a surprise appointment as he hasn’t had huge success with any club in the top flight despite earning promotion for Reading and reaching an FA Cup final with West Ham. Despite the length of his contract Pardew himself has stated that other managers have called him ‘mad’ for taking on the job. Whether the contract that Pardew has signed actually means anything remains to be seen, especially after Hughton was sacked after achieving what fans have thought were good results for the club in their first season back in the Premier League.
Pardew’s first challenge as Newcastle United manager is to win over the players who have openly stated they are disappointed at the dismissal of Hughton, something that yesterday’s 3-1 win over Liverpool would certainly have helped. Despite yesterday’s success this decision by Mike Ashley could have a terrible effect on Newcastle as a club and after a promising start to the season it would be no surprise if the team slide down the league as the impact of Hughton’s dismissal makes its mark. It is for certain that Alan Pardew has a lot of work to do in order to turn his players around, win over the fans who Hughton endeared himself to, and to achieve even better results that will see Newcastle fight for a top half finish in their comeback season.
What is clear for everyone to see is that the era of managers staying at one club for five to ten years, or even longer in some cases, seems to be over with clubs wanting immediate success. This approach cannot be healthy for football and stability is the foundation on which successful clubs build on. This would be something Newcastle owner Mike Ashley could learn a lot from if he wants to know how he should go about bringing success to St. James Park and to one of the most well supported clubs in the land