A bumper edition for you this week as our Photoshop theme is Mike Ashley, chairman extraordinaire of Newcastle.
Lots more on the Guardian site – he really is a good topic.
The news yesterday that Newcastle, or more specifically Mike Ashley, had sacked Chris Hughton was something of a shock to say the least. After leading them back to the Premier League with a 102 point Championship winning season, Hughton has overseen comfortable start to the season with Newcastle lying 11th with 19 points from 16 games.
Ashley cited the need for someone with more managerial experience to take the club forward which is reasonable if Newcastle were struggling but not in the current circumstances.
It’s not as if Newcastle are marooned in the bottom three, they’ve been mid-table all season and had impressive league victories over Arsenal, Aston Villa and Sunderland amongst others. Chuck in a League Cup win away at Chelsea and you’ve got the basis of good start to the season.
Perhaps there was the feeling that the current run of one win in six was a sign of things to come, but if that was the case then surely Chelsea would be sacking Carlo Ancelotti right now, given he has the exact same record over that period. If Ashley looked at the table he’d see Everton and Liverpool below his side too.
The whole reason Newcastle were regarded as a joke club for so many years was that there was always something ridiculous going on. Whether it was poorly thought out signings, directors making inappropriate comments, or hiring Joe Kinnear as manager, you always felt glad your own club wasn’t as stupid.
Hughton brought some stability and more importantly some dignity back to Newcastle. Conducting his business with little fuss, and managing to pretty much unite one of the most divisive squads in recent memory, he was doing well in his first shot at full-time management. Ashley obviously felt otherwise.
Perhaps he felt this season offers an opportunity – it’s a tighter league than normal so a higher than expected finish is achievable.
Perhaps he looks at how well fellow promoted sides West Brom and Blackpool are doing and feels Newcastle should be doing better having last season finished 11 and 32 points ahead respectively.
Perhaps he still plans to sell the club sooner rather than later and wants a bigger manager to attract higher bids and better players. The thing about most of these options is that if anything Newcastle are punching above their weight at the moment.
Ashley may feel that they should resume their place at the higher echelons of the league but times have long since changed from the heady days of title challenges. The main reason is the lack of investment in the team. I know Ashley has spent £300million since buying the club (including the cost price) and he the right to do what he wants but much of this was wasted on poor players and a big fat payoff to big fat Sam Allardyce.
This summer they spent around £6million and that’s being generous as a third of that was just to loan Ben Arfa. Considering how small the squad was to begin with, to currently be 11th despite a poor run of form isn’t to be sniffed at. A promoted side should be looking at staying up first and foremost. Who knows what changing manager now will have.
In fairness, despite the difficulty in doing so, judgement has to be reserved until the next manager is named. If Newcastle end up with say Martin O’Neill (unlikely) or Martin Jol (expensive but maybe) then you could argue that a good decision may have been made, however harsh it is on Hughton.
There isn’t really a good time to change managers and it may as well have been done pre January transfer window. The backlash will come if Newcastle end up with someone like Alan Curbishley or Alan Pardew. Are they truly better than Chris Hughton? Really? It would smack of hiring the proverbial safe pair of hands or in other words complete mediocrity.
Curbishley has a track record of uninspiring mid table finishes, the exception being 7th with Charlton in 2003/04. I lost track of the number of times his team would be in a good position come January before collapsing once reaching 40 points. I suppose Alan Pardew is a slightly better option but that’s like saying Andy Townsend is a slightly better pundit than Robbie Earle – both are completely meh.
By keeping out of the limelight for a while, Mike Ashley’s reputation improved in recent months but he’s destroyed any goodwill he had with Newcastle fans. Even if he brings in someone really quiet good, I’m not sure he will regain it. In the eyes of most, he’s probably the one who should be leaving the club.
Another January transfer window closes and the media hyperbole can be put away until the summer. The whole schebang inevitably focused on those transfers that didn’t happen – Kaka to City – and those that weren’t concluded until the very last minute – Arshavin to Arsenal and Keane back to Spurs. Naturally, there were some deals that seemed a good piece of business and those that seemed a little too inflated by mid-season panic buying.
The Sportboys like to put their neck on the line and make predictions. Andrei Arshavin’s impact at Arsenal has been analysed in a previous post and another blog over the coming days will deal with the football agents’ paradise, otherwise known as Tottenham Hotspur. Therefore, here is our guide to the rest of the best and worst of January’s transfer activity.
It’s a deal, it’s a steal, it’s the sale of the…
Kevin Nolan – Bolton to Newcastle – £4.5 mil
Nolan was one of Fat Sam’s key players at Bolton but things hadn’t quite worked out for him under Gary Megson. Newcastle were in need of a midfielder with pedigree in the Premiership and the eye for a goal. In Nolan, they have a player with over 200 appearances in the top flight and is at the ripe age of 26. At £4.5 million, he is great value for money and is the kind of player who will kick on and help Kinnear’s Toon Army with the unenviable task of sorting the Tyneside club out.
Jo – Manchester City to Everton – Loan until the summer
The Brazilian may have arrived at the Eastlands with a hefty £18.5 million price tag but Mark Hughes obviously didn’t fancy taking the risk of giving him a sustained run in the first team. With Man City holding a plethora of strikers and Everton struggling to field any (with no detriment to their team) this transfer made sense all round (unless Man City had actually been competing with Everton for European places). I saw some top performances for Jo while he was at CSKA, strong, pacey and good in the air. He will provide the Toffees with a good target man and make sure that Fellaini isn’t the only player with big hair playing at Goodison.
Hugo Rodallega – Necaxa to Wigan Athletic – £4.5 million
I won’t pretend to know anything about this guy’s playing history but he looked pretty handy against Liverpool last week. He seems to have the right attributes for the Premier League and Steve Bruce seems to have success with Latin American players. It will be interesting to see how he develops at Wigan but with Henri Camara joining Stoke on loan, he will get ample opportunity to play.
Charles N’Zogbia – Newcastle United to Wigan Athletic – swap deal plus cash
Left St. James’ Park in acrimonious circumstances, which perhaps put off bigger clubs from taking a gamble on him. However, Charles has an abundance of quality and is young. Bruce likes pace and flair from his wide players, which he should provide. Should he move on in the future, I am sure Wigan will make a tidy profit on the Frenchman.
Emile Heskey – Wigan Athletic to Aston Villa – £3.5 million
It would be easy to simply vindicate Martin O’Neill’s decision to bring in Bruno by pointing to the debut winning goal against Portsmouth last week. However, I think we all know that Heskey is not going to score too many and may not even get into the first team when Carew is fit again. But for £3.5 million Villa have boosted their small squad with an experienced and dependable team player. Quite embarassing for Liverpool that they were pipped to him because they weren’t prepared to stump up the cash.
Ricardo Quaresma – Inter Milan to Chelsea – Loan until the summer
Undoubtedly this won’t go down too well with Blues fans but I am not so sure that the Portugese international will be so succesful at the Bridge. The winger has built himself a big reputation over the past few years and Mourinho obviously saw a new Ronaldo in him, hence paying a lot of money to take him to Milan last summer. As Inter’s form started to dip, Quaresma was eclipsed from the first team by others. However, this isn’t the first time that flamboyant wingers have fallen foul of Mourinho. Robben was sapped of confidence by the moody one and is now finding a new lease of life at Real Madrid. My reason for doubting Quaresma’s ability to succeed at Chelsea is a) the short amount of time he has to adapt and make a contribution and b) Scolari’s challenge of fitting him into a midfield that he continues to play Obi Mikel, Lampard and Ballack. Nevertheless, bringing Quaresma on loan is low risk and a coup in terms of players that are available in January. Was Mourinho doing Chelski a favour, hoping they return it in the summer in the form of Drogba and possible Lampard?
James Beattie and Henri Camara – Sheffield United and Wigan Athletic to Stoke City – £3.5 mil and Loan until the summer
Stoke are outside of the relegation zone and notched an important win against Man City last weekend. Nevertheless, it was clear that they lacked firepower this season. In James Beattie and Henri Camara, the Potters have picked up two players that have scored goals in the Premiership, are not past it, are still hungry and each bring different qualities and abilities. These are ‘staying up’ signings. Whether they can compensate for a poor defence and three games without Rory Delap mega-throws, it remains to be seen.