Friday, December 10, 2010

Another own goal, Mr Ashley?

The more I read about the manner in which billionaire Mike Ashley runs Newcastle United Football Club, the more I wonder how he ever became so rich, or having done so, managed to hold on to a significant chunk of his money.

My reasons for making that assertion are many, but are neatly encapsulated by the recent dismissal of Chris Hughton and his replacement as manager by Alan Pardew.

Hughton, the football aficionados amongst you will recall, was the man who took hold of the poisoned chalice which has long been the manager's position at St James' Park, after Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the season before last, when no-one else would have touched what was a club in chaos, with a bargepole.

He proceeded, in less than twelve months, in transforming a team with a losing mentality into one which swept all before them in securing immediate promotion back to the financial promised land of the English Premier League; and he achieved it by spending about fifty quid.

Once back in the 'big time', Hughton steered his team to mid-table respectability, whist securing an away win at the Emirates over Arsenal and slaughtering their main rivals Sunderland 5 - 1 in their first encounter of the season. What's more, in doing so, he secured the support of the vast majority of Newcastle supporters; but sadly not that of the one who really matters: Chairman Mike.

Not content with the quietly efficient Hughton's work - and therein might lie his problem - Ashley peremptorily sacked him last week for no real reason other than, as the owner of the club, he simply could.

People saw Martin Jol, the former manager of Spurs, resigning from his position at Ajax and immediately thought he would have been heading for Tyneside to replace the unfortunate Hughton, but no.

Instead, Ashley appointed Alan Pardew, a man of scarcely higher profile than his predecessor, whose claims to fame as a manager include losing the FA Cup Final with West Ham, being relegated with Charlton Athletic and most recently, being dismissed from his role with Southampton, a club which now plies its trade in League One; fully two divisions and a literal world away from the Premier League.

Not only that, but in sacking the hugely popular Hughton, Ashley has also managed to alienate both the dressing room - you know, the room that contains the men who actually go out and play the games - and all but 1.5% of Newcastle fans as well.

I wish Pardew, a decent enough man, as far as I can see, a fair wind and as much good luck as he can get; because despite the five and a half year contact he has secured from the, shall we say Mercurial, Ashley, I think he's going to need it.

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