It was just two weeks ago that Newcastle suffered a 4-0 home defeat to Arsenal. Following that loss Chris Hughton topped the list of Premiership managers most likely to get the sack. Since that Carling Cup exit, however, Newcastle have responded with two fantastic performances resulting in two of the more surprising results of the season.
First they beat their bitter rivals Sunderland 5-1 before then getting revenge on Arsenal with a 1-0 win at the Emirates. Behind these two superb victories lies Newcastle's quiet and understated manager, Chris Hughton.
Since emerging from the wreckage of Newcastle's relegation, Hughton has made few mistakes as manager. He got the Toon promoted in record time and he has, for the most part, carried that momentum into the Premiership. After just eleven games Newcastle find themselves in 5th place in the Premiership. Despite this, Hughton is still only on a short-term contract.
Hughton's current deal will expire at the end of the season and it seems bizarre that the club would not reward their manager by showing some faith in him by offering a long-term deal. This would, at very least, indicate to him that he has time to build a Premiership squad that will be able to compete back at the top level.
Since becoming the permanent manager back in the summer of 2009, Hughton had shown a tactical nous that has enabled Newcastle to grind out hard fought victories as well as run riot on teams, as they have done against Sunderland and Aston Villa already this year. More importantly, Hughton clearly has the players working together and working for him.
The one thing Newcastle have desperately lacked in recent years is stability. The club has had eight managers since 2004. It appears to have taken relegation to finally provide them with that in the form of Chris Hughton. Still the board seems reluctant to cement this stability.
Hughton's managerial record - Played 65, Won 39 (60%), Drawn 15, Lost 11.
During their cycle of different managers, Newcastle's results suffered. It is never a good recipe for success. A manager always has a style of football he prefers and thus different preferences in personnel, both players and coaches. Common sense would therefore suggest that for a football club to be successful they ought to allow a manager implement his own philosophy at a club and, in turn, create a team to be successful to that ends. It is a simple idea that is so often over-looked.
The current habit of short-sighted boards replacing managers in the faint hope that they will achieve unprecedented success is all too evident in the Premiership. Hughton has proven himself to be a successful manager. What he may lack in charisma and charm he makes up for in a very hands-on appreciation of the ins-and-outs of the game.
He goes about his work quietly while people are starting to take note of Newcastle's steady climb up the table. They will almost certainly not be able to maintain their current position. This should not, however, detract from what Hughton has done there. He has inherited an awkward assembly of players and mobilised them into a cohesive, hard-working and ever-improving team.
They seem to be reaping the benefits of the tough experience of Championship football. Players like Nolan, Barton and Carroll are all playing at their best while new signings Williamson and, in particular, Tioté have proven to be very useful additions to the team. They are, thus far, the league's biggest over-achievers and yet their manager seems constantly under threat.
Perhaps Mike Ashley and co. should follow the examples of the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal and realise that, although success may not come immediately, supporting a manager who has a clear direction for the club can prove very rewarding.
Boards should allow a manager to try and install a footballing philosophy at a club and then be given time to pursue it in the transfer market and on the training ground. The reply is often, 'football is a results business'. The fact remains though, in the long run a club can reap the rewards of managerial stability as opposed to knee jerk reactions from impatient businessmen.
Thoughts, comments and opinions please...