Posted tagged ‘Chris Hughton’

It gets crazier and crazier in Newcastle (and that’s saying something)

December 7, 2010

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.

The Newcastle story

August 25, 2010

OK, I haven’t written about Newcastle United FC for a while, and you won’t expect me to be completely silent on events… For those who don’t know what this is about, a little bit of background on the life and times of this football (soccer) club. Two years ago the sky fell on Newcastle, as the owner fell out with the much loved manager, Kevin Keegan. Keegan left, and a completely chaotic season followed, at the end of which the club was relegated from the Premier League to the (then) Coca Cola Championship. In the meantime the owner, Mike Ashley, was trying to offload the club but couldn’t find a buyer, the fans hated him, the biggest players left. Fatalistic fans were already talking about further relegation to League One.

And then it all changed. Newcastle’s players bonded in adversity with each other and with the caretaker manager, former Ireland international player Chris Hughton, a steely determination set in, and the club started winning games. Actually, winning them again and again. Until at the end of the season Newcastle easily came out on top of the Championship and were promoted back to the Premier League. Then, ten days ago or so, in the opening game of the new season, the club faltered against Manchester United at Trafford Park, and some were already predicting they would be relegated again. But just for now, no-one is saying that, because on Sunday last Newcastle annihilated Aston Villa, beating last season’s number 6 club by 6-0. Maybe things are looking brighter at last.

For me, the Newcastle story is a romantic one, of enthusiasm and determination in adversity, and the desire to do something and be something in and for a city that lives and breathes football. Of course there are still all the questions about where international soccer is going: the inflated salaries and transfer payments, the mountain-sized egos that the modern game has produced, the role of super-rich owners who don’t know how to respect the game, and so forth. But there is also the sheer excitement at seeing these dramatic struggles, and the joy of watching the game when it is at its best.

Go, Newcastle!