Chris Hughton

What’s next for NUFC?

Will his departure change NUFC's fortunes?

Will his departure change NUFC’s fortunes?

After an extended break from updating this blog I thought the recent departure of Alan Pardew to be just cause to flex my writing fingers to give a brief update on my stance as to what this actually means for the future of Newcastle United. Not that anyone cares of course.

Let me start off by unequivocally stating that Alan Pardew’s departure will have no meaningful impact on the way Newcastle United play football, or the long-term direction the club is heading in. Anyone expecting Frank de Boer, Rafael Benitez or even Michael Laudrup to take on the top job in North East football will be bitterly disappointed when the new ‘head coach’ (Ashley is not giving the new man the top title by all accounts) comes into Toon. In different circumstances men like these, and hundreds of talented managers like them across the globe would have been delighted to take on a project such as Newcastle United, which then begs the question, why won’t they come? Anyone familiar with my line of thinking will know the answer to this – Mike Ashley. We’ll get to him in a minute.

Quite frankly I’m surprised that Pardew left the club because under Mike Ashley he had a job for life. He may not have been the flavour of the month in the fans’ eyes but he was working at the biggest club he’ll ever work for and had relative job security compared with Crystal Palace who go through more managers than I do hot dinners. My guess is that even Pardew had had enough of having his hands tied behind his back. He’d had enough of taking the flak for Mike Ashley’s constant failings at the club, and he’d probably had enough of the scripted s**t that he had to roll out every pre-match and post-match press conference about how “we was a fret” even after 90 minutes of never hitting the target. Don’t get me wrong I am not absolving Pardew of anything, this man robbed a living while he was manager of Newcastle United and will (rightly) go down as one of the worst managers we’ve had in living memory (yes, even worse than Sam Allardyce and Graeme Souness in my books) and not only that, but the very fact that he was complicit in Mike Ashley’s running of the club negates any possible sympathy that could otherwise be evoked for him. The man is charlatan, a snake oil salesman and he will be found out for the pathetic manager he is when he inevitably relegates Crystal Palace this season and I for one am delighted to see the back of him. However, nothing is going to change.

Alan Pardew’s departure from the club will not signal change for Newcastle United. You may think I am being negative with this prediction but I am afraid it will (most likely) be the case. Mike Ashley has had his fingers burned when it comes to managerial appointments in the past; he chose the popular options of Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer – these appointments did not work due to Ashley’s own failings but his own lack of control over these iconic figures played a part in that. He then chose a safe pair of hands in Chris Hughton, but the fact that Chris believed a lot in player power meant that Ashley couldn’t keep him in the job, especially when his cohorts i.e. Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique were calling for better bonuses it was clear that their respective times at the club were always going to be short-lived. Finally he appointed from within his own circle of trust in the ilk of Joe Kinnear (twice) and Alan Pardew. It is through this model that Ashley has had the most stability (despite Kinnear’s short reign as both manager and Director of Football) and don’t be surprised if it is through this model that Ashley appoints again. The list of friends Ashley has in the game is short, however, with only the like of Dennis Wise, Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables of any real repute, and I’d doubt any NUFC fan would be happy with any of those appointments for a myriad of reasons.

So that leaves Ashley with another option – appoint from within the club. Save for the fact that Colo hasn’t got his coaching badges, I’d have bet my bottom dollar that he was going to be the next manager at Newcastle United. He successfully ostracised and seen off the likes of Yanga M’biwa and Hatem Ben Arfa, all the while protecting the manager and by extension, Mike Ashley. Considering that only 2 years ago he was looking a way out of the club himself, this indicates a marked turnaround and is a demonstration of how much individual power he now wields at the club. Forgetting the fact that he is now a shadow of his former self and would no longer be starting but for the fact that centre half is a position we are stricken in, Colocinni is a man to be wary of looking into Newcastle United’s near future.

The most likely candidate for the job comes down to a choice of 2; John Carver or Peter Beardsley. Carver and Beardsley represent men who were previously held in high esteem at the club, but through their association with the Ashley regime are now no more than bought and paid for stooges. If Ashley appoints either man as ‘head coach’ the majority of fans will be delighted that a “Geordie lad” has the top job, while some of us will see it for what it really is – a continuation of Alan Pardew’s sterling (!) work at NUFC. Mike Ashley wants minimal fuss and a smooth transition. He doesn’t want to indoctrinate a new man into how he does things, he wants someone who knows his model of running a football club already, which is why my money is on either of these two being the next manager.

These are worrying times for NUFC, especially considering that Ashley has been gazumped in a struggle for shares at the club formerly known as Rangers. To my fellow Newcastle United fans I say this, be careful what you wish for and beware the Ides of March.


How far can Newcastle go this season?

Where is he taking us?

Where will he take us?

I am a Newcastle United fan. I am also a realist. Over the years those two concepts were like chalk and cheese, that is, until we got relegated. When we achieved promotion right back to the Premier League it was almost as if Newcastle United fans were not allowed to be ambitious again, that is was heresy to say we could push the top 6 again. However, we have done that in recent years with an arguably weaker squad than we had then. Yes it was an over achievement, yes we got very lucky but it was where a club of our stature should be aiming for year in year out.

It was not to last, and the powers that be tried to temper such enthusiasm by not investing in the squad, scaling down our targets and setting a much more modest goalposts to aim at. As a result, many Newcastle United fans would see finishing inside the top 10 as a respectable league finish, and finishing inside the top 8 as a huge bonus. That is not on in my view. Despite a stuttering start to the Premier League, Newcastle United have seen a massive upturn in their recent fortunes – beating 2 of the London team who have eyes for the top 4, or even more, and beating a side managed by our former manager Chris Hughton, who no doubt had a point to prove.

Make no mistake, these were 3 excellent results, which will be followed up by another eminently winnable home game next weekend against West Brom, which could see us in a very strong position in the league going into December – a notoriously difficult month for Newcastle United over the years.

If Newcastle United were to make it through December in the top 10, then they would be an a delicately poised position. The question then is one of ambition. If we are top 10 going into the January transfer window it is then up to Ashley to decide what he wants from us as a club. By dipping into the coffers and signing one or two players in January (not simply freebies, or someone whose contract is running out, but genuine quality to take us forward) Newcastle United could make a push on not only the top 8, but the top 6. If Ashley keeps his short hands out of his deep pockets and accept the position we are in, we could well finish inside the top 10, or maybe just outside it.

Would that be success to you?

Given how there is a World Cup coming up in which a number of our key players will be performing on the biggest stage, it would serve Newcastle United well to demonstrate some ambition to keep heads from turning. Yohan Cabaye has already shown himself to be suffering from itchy feet, an itch that will probably only be satisfied when playing for a club whose ambition is silverware and European football. The same might be said for a number of other players who have been more diplomatic than wor Yohan.

The overriding point is that we have been having a good season, but the consequences of letting that head of steam dissipate could be very serious indeed. Not only in the short term by finishing in a lower league position than we are capable of, but in the long run of keeping this bunch of talented players together. It will be interesting to see how Mr Ashley plays this one out.


Will complacency be an issue?

Needs to keep team focused

Needs to keep team focused

Football is back. Not that pointless international drivel that we’ve been subjected to for the last couple of weeks, but actually Premier League football. The only good thing about internationals is I am like a child on Christmas when Newcastle United are back in action, and back in action they are indeed with a home game coming up tomorrow against former United manager Chris Hughton and his charges Norwich City.

In a way, the international break came at the wrong time for Newcastle United given how we’d just beat Chelsea at home and survived an onslaught away at White Hart Lane to come away with a priceless 3 points against Spurs. However, during the international break our French stars secured qualification from being 2-0 down in the first leg so that should see them return with an added bounce in their step.

I am always cautious in the games that follow unexpected victories, especially when they are home games, and especially when they are home games against lesser opposition whom we really should be beating. Unfortunately, that is the case that is being presented to us with a home tie against Norwich. No disrespect to Norwich or their manager – the gentleman that is Chris Hughton – but we really should have enough about us to dispatch of them. I did, however, say the same thing when we were at home to Hull City following our impressive away win at Villa Park earlier in the season, so now I am keeping shtum regarding such predictions.

Newcastle United can be content with their start to the season. The unexpected 6 points from our last 2 games has put evened out some of the more disappointing results this season, and arguably has us where we would generally expect to be at this stage of the season. Now is the time to kick on, and as Alan Pardew rightly said earlier this week, we are in a ‘poised’ position, a win here, followed up with 3 points in another very winnable home game next week against West Bromwich Albion, and we could be in an excellent position. However, if we pass up this opportunity, we could quickly find the top half of the table begin to break away.

Norwich City have had a pretty rocky start to the season in contrast, with some quarters even questioning Hughton’s position as manager, following a start to the season that saw them in the bottom three. However, recent results (discounting the thrashing by the 2 Manchester clubs) have improved and Hughton will surely be taking his men to St James’ Park with a point to prove, not only to the man who unceremoniously gave him the sack in 2010, but to the doubters within his own camp. Given how many players have spoken of their intense desire to give 100% for Hughton, tomorrow’s game may not be as clean-cut as it would appear.

So to summarise, I do expect us to win tomorrow. Newcastle United should be beating bottom half teams at St James’ Park every day of the week. However, I do expect Norwich to put up a fierce battle for their manager, and if we are not fully switched on, we could see a repeat of the shambolic performances that saw teams like Swansea, Reading, West Ham and even Sunderland bowl us over at St James’ last season.

Over to you Pardew, keep the lads focused and we could well be talking about a good run of form with us pushing well into the top 10. A defeat will drag us back to discussions of glaring inconsistencies. Where we go next is up to you.


Match-day – Hull (h)

Hull City boss Bruce

Hull City boss Bruce

Newcastle United return to St James’ Park following their fruitful journey away to Aston Villa last weekend, which resulted in a sweetly earned 3 points. Today United take on a Hull City side managed by one of our own, in the guise of Steve Bruce. The former Sunderland manager has Hull City looking pretty decent in their first few games and this game could prove to be trickier than a lot would anticipate.

I watched Hull in their first game of the season against Chelsea, and while they were sloppy defensively for the goals, they tightened up after a rollicking from Bruce and looked very assured in possession in the 2nd half. They followed that game up with a win over former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton’s Norwich side, and were extremely unlucky not to come away from the Etihad with a result against Manchester City, as their general performance really merited it.  Following last week’s tense early season 6 pointer against Cardiff, where they drew 1-1 at home, Hull sit in 16th with 4 points, 3 points behind Newcastle United who are 8th with 7 points.

My advice to Alan Pardew would be this; don’t do a thing! Don’t change a single player that started last weekend’s win against Villa. If we come out of the traps this week as quickly as we did last week, we could nick the all important early goal and force Hull to open up. If Hatem Ben Arfa and Loic Remy are in the same form they found themselves to be in last weekend, then this game would certainly be well within our capabilities of winning. This is how I think we should line out:




Ben Arfa———–Cisse——————-Remy

The one thing that I would encourage Pardew to try and do is to push on if we score a goal. When we scored last weekend, we retreated, which allowed Villa into the game, something that they had not done for the entirety of the time before we scored. Let’s not hand the opposition a foothold in the game, if we get a chance to kill this game off, then let’s do it. God knows, the tired and troubled soul of your everyday Newcastle United fan could do with a lift.

Secondly, why do we still look like a 1 half team? Our team display in the 1st half of last weekend’s game was balanced, it was fluid and it was everything we wanted to see. We pressed high, hard and as a unit. In the 2nd half, save for the heroics of Ben Arfa, we might not have got the 3 points. We need to play as a team for the full 90 mins. There’s my list of demands Alan Pardew, if you can manage the win this weekend, play some decent football in the process and go for the jugular, you just might buy yourself another week in my eyes.

What do you think? How do you think we will do today against newly promoted Hull City? Will Pardew stick with the team that got the result last weekend?

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