The shock dismissal of Chris Hughton from his post at Newcastle has been met with almost universal anger and sympathy for the manager. This is quite understandable given his record.
In his most recent and longest tenure in charge of the club Hughton gained promotion from the Championship with little difficulty before attaining a wholly respectable 11th position in a very competitive Premier League this season before being given his marching orders. He also has the highest win ratio of any manager Newcastle have had in the past 10 years at 55.71%; a figure that is obviously helped by the season they spent in the Championship but impressive nonetheless.
Having not won in five games (although that included a draw against Chelsea) since their splendid win at Arsenal, Newcastle’s board have done what they seemingly have wanted to do all season and brought the axe down on Hughton claiming that they wanted to have a manager in place “with more managerial experience”. For a man who has had considerably more success than his recent predecessors that must have been a hard one to take.
If what Newcastle said was true then why have they decided to do this now? It would surely have been fairer (if equally harsh) to have done it at the beginning of the season if they considered Chris Hughton not qualified enough to manage in the Premier League? Instead they offered this statement on the 27th October “Chris is our manager and will remain our manager and it is our intention to re-negotiate his contract at the end of the year”. Ouch.
I don’t want to dwell on the problems with how Newcastle United is organised and particularly Mike Ashley’s ownership, which have been well documented in the press. To me the whole story shows the whimsical and short-sighted behaviour of a lot of club owners and how difficult it is for a manager to have a long career at a single club.
Newcastle have had 8 managers in 6 years. While an extreme example there are other clubs with similar records. Shareholders in companies would not allow that kind of uncertainty in their leadership. Why do football clubs? Owners might argue that the world of football moves quickly with only 38 occasions to influence their league position so if a manager is not achieving they have to move quickly, especially to avoid relegation. Football should be meritocratic but I think clubs are often premature in their decision making and give very little respect to the long term deals they make a song and dance about when it is in their interests. Stability seems to be an undervalued commodity and I reckon if owners held their nerve more often then they might reap the long term success, which their skittish jumping from manager to manager avoids.
From a manager’s point of view, I personally believe Barcelona’s coach Pep Guardiola has it right in the current system. He refuses to sign a long-term contract; instead preferring one year contracts that get renegotiated every year. Given that a long-term contract offers no real security with clubs willing to sack their managers at the first sign of bad form (albeit usually with a compensation package), Guardiola is able to get the best deal for himself every year when Barcelona are desperate to keep him.
Returning to Hughton, I feel very sorry for the man. It now looks like Alan Pardew will be the man who replaces him. Pardew is a manager with one good season a the top level and a number of bad ones. If this is the kind of managerial experience that Newcastle are after then we can almost be assured of their being in the same position next season I would imagine.