I suppose it had to happen. Just as everyone was settling down, the fans were content (if occasionally a tad anxious), the media vaguely positive – just as it all looked reasonably good, in steps Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and fires manager Chris Hughton. OK, I hope you know what I am talking about here: it’s one of my occasional rants about football club Newcastle United. Apologies to those not in the least interested.
Nearly two years ago former Ireland international Chris Hughton was plucked from a supporting role under Kevin Keegan to take over as acting manager, and eventually permament manager. How did he get on? Just after Newcastle were relegated in the summer of 2009 he put in place a proper team spirit and a determination to get out of the mess, and sure enough, Newcastle dominated the Championship and were back up in the Premiership at the first available opportunity. A number of commentators predicted they would fail there, but in fact Newcastle have beaten Aston Villa and Arsenal and held Chelsea to a draw. So what does an owner like Mike Ashley do? Well, he fires the manager of course. And what do the fans do? They cry in despair.
One of the major problems with soccer right now is the role that has now been given to rich football club owners. They often treat clubs like their personal toys, undermining stability while often not providing necessary funds. Some get it right: Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and Alex Ferguson at Manchester United have been given full autonomy to act as needed without owner interference. And who could deny that it has been a successful formula?
In the end, though, football clubs are the property of their fans, for without them the business would collapse. I believe we need to think again about the appropriateness of having wealthy owners at all – perhaps there should be a FIFA rule (if only FIFA were more transparent) that all clubs are required to be cooperative ventures owned collectively by their supporters.
Right now I am stunned, in total disbelief.