Issue Why all football managers will be hoping Newcastle United are relegated

As told by Jason Mckeown

It didn’t take long, in the wake of Newcastle United’s shocking decision to sack manager Chris Hughton, for Bradford City’s own managerial situation to be brought up in comparison. Looking ahead to a big month which could determine the Bantams’ season, one message board commenter declared that the club should sack Peter Taylor if results go badly, because (paraphrasing) “If Newcastle are going to sack a manager when 11th in the league, why shouldn’t we also take decisive action?”

And that, above everything, is the real damage of Hughton’s departure.

The world of football is looking at the Newcastle situation with despair. Ever since the knee-jerk decision to sack Sir Bobby Robson just four games into the 2004/05 season, the Magpies have been on a downwards spiral that surely required a revolving door to be installed on the manager’s office – to keep up with the huge turnaround. Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder, Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear and Alan Shearer all arrived and quickly left.

Goodbye Champions League hopes. Hello Championship.

Then by luck rather than judgement, it seemed, the rolling of the dice proved successful for once and the unassuming Houghton led Newcastle to an instant return to the Premier League. And what’s more, they’ve been doing rather well for a newly-promoted side which has barely had any money to spend. Thrashing rivals Sunderland and winning at Arsenal in recent weeks. Hughton’s last home game in charge was a credible 1-1 draw with Champions Chelsea, for goodness sake.

Media rumours of Hughton’s departure have circled for weeks, and the club did a poor job of dismissing those stories. It would seem owner Mike Ashley was simply waiting for an excuse and a run of five games without a win proved to be that window of opportunity. And so the club which seemed to have found stability and prospered is thrown back into turmoil.

But as the outrage and ridicule dies down, it is the ramifications of this sacking to the rest of football that carries the greatest concern. History tells us that – unless Ashley was holding out on Hughton and will give his replacement millions to spend in January – Newcastle will do no better for changing managers mid-season. Those same players will remain good on their day but lacking in other games; those inconsistent results will continue. Newcastle will not be ending the season back up to the late Sir Bobby’s Champions League standards.

Yet even in the high likelihood of this compelling evidence, other managers will find themselves under pressure and their Chairman compared unfavourably to Ashley for not having the balls to get rid of them. That Newcastle can sack a manager when the club are 11th surely means West Ham should dismiss Avram Grant for being bottom, that Wolves should fire Mick McCarthy as the club has been overtaken by the likes of Newcastle, and – yes – that City should ditch Taylor because recent results aren’t good enough for an ambitious club like us.

Because in time some will argue Ashley’s actions in sacking Hughton were not ridiculous, but the mark of an ambitious club owner.

Managers up and down the land must surely now hope that Newcastle are relegated from the Premier League this season, so that the folly of sacking the gaffer on the back of a couple of poor results can be emphatically rammed home. A Newcastle relegation won’t bring an end to unfair managerial sackings, but they could at least lead to a great deal more thought being applied than is often the case now.

Newcastle have raised (or perhaps lowered) the bar for the patience afforded to managers and lack of sentiment over any previous success they may have delivered. Taylor and co will have their own personal reasons for hoping it proves to be a monumental mistake.