Toon Army walking in a Hughton Wonderland

Posted: November 1, 2010 in Blogs
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The build up to yesterday’s Tyne-Wear derby (the first in 2 years following Newcastle’s relegation in 2009) was overshadowed in the last week by vicious rumours circulating in the press that the Magpies manager Chris Hughton was set to lose his job. On Wednesday, the day of Newcastle’s Carling Cup exit, bookmakers suspended betting on Hughton being the next Premiership manager to be sacked. Whilst bookmakers are obviously not always right (you only have to look back to the end of August, when betting was suspended on David Moyes becoming Aston Villa’s new manager), they are fairly accurate in their predictions, as they have to be. The increased amount of money wagered recently on Hughton losing his job has undoubtedly been influenced by rumours in the media that Newcastle’s board were lining up replacements for their Irish manager.

Rumours swirled this week that Hughton was set to lose his job

The first sighting of such rumours came in Alan Oliver’s article for ‘The People’ on the 24th of October. In it, the former Evening Chronicle sports writer did his very best to undermine the job that Chris Hughton has done so far at Newcastle. My only guess is that Oliver must have recently had a fall or banged his head because the symptoms his writing displayed were very much aligned to those suffered by victims of Selective Memory Loss (SML), an unfortunate form of amnesia, where the sufferer loses parts of his or her memory. Not only did Oliver seemingly forget the incredible job that Chris Hughton has done for Newcastle United since taking over permanently 12 months ago, but he also chose to write selectively about further facets of Hughton’s work, including only the negative aspects of Hughton’s transfer-market dealings:

“The few moves Hughton has been allowed to make in the transfer market have not ­impressed Ashley and Co. One of Calderwood’s ­recommendations, James Perch, has made a disastrous start to his Toon career since joining from Nottingham Forest. And striker Leon Best, signed for £2million from Coventry in February, has been a flop.”

Alan Oliver, The People, 24/10/2010

No mention then of Mike Williamson, the centre-back plucked from relative obscurity in Portsmouth’s reserves for an undisclosed fee, thought to be no more than £1.5 million in January of this year. The Stoke-born defender became an ever-present in the Magpies Championship-winning team in the absence of Steven Taylor and has, along with Coloccini, started more games than any other United player this season (All ten league games and one Carling Cup tie). Williamson has looked sturdy and uncompromising at the back, forming a formidable partnership with Fabricio Coloccini that has ably dealt with the likes of Darren Bent, John Carew and Carlos Tevez thus far. Likewise Wayne Routledge, who although has failed to deliver so far in the Premier League, was one of the key men behind Newcastle’s mid-season revival in the Championship, supplying assists galore for frontmen Carroll and Lovenkrands to fire the Mags back to the big time. No mention either, of Hatem Ben Arfa, the French whizz-kid coveted by Europe’s largest clubs who showed undoubted promise in his brief appearances before being cruelly struck down by the now infamous Nigel de Jong tackle at Eastlands. Yet perhaps the greatest piece of business done in the transfer market by Hughton to date is the capture of midfield anchor Cheick Tiote. Since replacing vice-captain Alan Smith at Goodison Park, the diminutive Ivorian has gone from strength to strength, almost single handedly bossing both West Ham and Sunderland’s midfield’s in the centre of the park. Signed for a now seemingly paltry £3.5 million from Dutch champions FC Twente Enschede, Tiote has wowed Toon fans with his incredible composure and passing ability, drawing comparisons with Chelsea’s Michael Essien.

Mike Williamson has been a revelation at Newcastle and demonstrates Hughton's credentials in the transfer market

For Alan Oliver to simply note Hughton’s signings of James Perch and Leon Best without mentioning his other signings is just pure incompetence, although some might argue that Oliver had every intention of doing so, in an attempt to force Hughton out of the club. Oliver’s work has long been criticised in the North-East and his relocation to The People in recent years has hardly improved matters. That he was banned from St James’ Park by Mike Ashley two years ago makes his malicious article seem anything but a coincidence.

However, whilst Alan Oliver’s article in The People may have kickstarted the rumours that Hughton was soon to leave his post, others in the media followed it up with a continuation of sh*tstirring throughout the past week. Following on from Wednesday’s Carling Cup defeat to Arsenal, Newcastle United released a statement reaffirming their desire to keep Chris Hughton as manager of the club, with contract renewal talks due to take place at the end of the year. Yet this only served to provide more ammunition for the (mainly Southern-based) press, seemingly intent (as always) on disrupting things at St James’ Park when they have nothing else to write about. It should be noted that both the local media, by and large, as well as the Newcastle fans have been fully behind Chris Hughton this season, despite poor performances at home to Stoke and Wigan and the fielding of a weakened side against Arsenal in the Carling Cup.

One of the most disgusting pieces of anti-Hughton fiction to appear this week came from Brian Woolnough of the Daily Star on the 30th of October in his article “Newcastle must axe Hughton if they want Prem Glory”. The title of the article boils my blood and that’s before you even begin to read its content. ‘Wooly’, as he is apparently affectionately known (although the comments section of his article suggests some different names that he is not-so-affectionately known as) uses his column inches to publicly slate Hughton’s credentials as a top flight manager:

“Hughton is a nice guy but not a top manager. That is not a criticism, it’s a fact.”

Brian Woolnough, The Daily Star, 30/10/2010

Just exactly how is that a “fact”? Hughton, for such an under-pressure, under-performing boss, is not doing too bad actually, with his supposedly threadbare squad (“Newcastle have one or two good players, but too many ordinary ones. The team needs big ­investment.”) sitting 7th in the Premier League table, just 3 points below big-spenders Man City and above teams managed by the likes of David Moyes, Roy Hodgson, Gerard Houllier and Sam Allardyce; all surely considered as ‘top class managers’, although my feelings on the latter may differ slightly from the rest of the country. So I would like to know where ‘Wooly’ gets his factual evidence from that Hughton is not a top manager, because I have yet to see it and the Premier League table (which supposedly never lies) certainly does not show it.

7th in the table and 3 points behind Man City. Not bad for a poor manager & squad

Add to all this the fact that one of Newcastle’s very own heroes in Malcolm Macdonald (Supermac) voiced his discontent with Hughton over the weekend and you can see that the rumours and anti-Hughton bile is spreading further afield already. Obviously, the 5-1 rout of Sunderland in yesterday’s Tyne-Wear demolition derby will go a long way towards silencing Hughton’s critics, for the meantime at least, and may even lead to those critics in the media hypocritically backtracking and calling for Newcastle’s board to offer him a new contract. Stranger things have happened, but one thing is for sure; of all Hughton’s critics there can’t have been many packed in to St James’ yesterday, as 50,000 of the Toon Army walked in a Hughton Wonderland.

  1. stefan says:

    Great article it makes me sick people are having a go at chris what has he actally done wrong most of his signings have be top draw he won the championship at the first time of asking got all our players playing with confidence installed great team spirit were sitting in 7th at the moment which is higher than i thought we would be at this stage so wats all the fuss i for one want chris to get a new contract as i really belive he is the right man for my beloved toon army full stop.

    one thing i will say is chris is a bigger man and manager than any so called media circus grow up and report some real football news.

    Thanks fergie for this post and thanks for the link to the daily star article i will never buy there paper again for that.

  2. Mark Green says:

    It all makes sense now I hear Alan Oliver started off the poison pen articles.

    No surprise that Alan Oliver retired after his meal ticket, Fat Freddie Shepherd was booted out.

    Oliver pretended to be a journalist, whilst releasing Fat Fred’s propaganda for years under the pose of the St. James’ Park ‘insider’

    Lauren Robert should have gave him the kicking he deserved =)

  3. […] league. Yet all the while, Mike Ashley was unscrupulously plotting Hughton’s demise. Despite pressure on Hughton from outside the club, not least from Tyneside’s unfavoured son Alan Oliver, the vast majority of the club’s […]

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