Betting has been suspended, the rumours are gathering momentum and BBC Sport reports the announcement will be made within 24 hours. This is, of course, the news that Alan Pardew is looking almost certain to be named as the new Newcastle United manager. With that being the situation I am going to jump the gun and offer some thoughts on the unjustifiable madness present in the St. James' Park boardroom.
I wrote a piece over at backpagefootball.com on the news of Chris Hughton's sacking (apologies if you read that, there will be some overlap). To paraphrase that article, Ashley's treatment of Hughton was shocking, disrespectful and disloyal. Hughton took over the club when it was at its lowest, lead them to a Championship title and now established them at 12th in the Premiership table. All of which he has done with unfaltering dignity and with next to no money to spend.
Some of the results and performances Newcastle have shown themselves capable of this season were far beyond expectation. 5-0 smashing of Aston Villa, 6-1 hammering of Sunderland, 1-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirate and a 1-1 draw against champions Chelsea, who they also knocked out of the League Cup. Newcastle's next four games are Liverpool (home), Birmingham (away), Manchester City (home) and Tottenham (away). These are the sorts of games that Hughton had the team doing so well in but the team would do well to salvage any points from these games now.
Hughton had the squad united and had the big names (Nolan, Barton and Carroll) playing at their best. As Sol Campbell came out and said after Hughton was so unceremoniously given the boot, he had the respect and admiration of all the players and they have understandably taken the news badly. The motivation of the players will be at an all-time low and it would be surprised in performances did not suffer heavily.
Most importantly though, Hughton gave the club the one thing that it had been so desperately lacking for the best part of a decade. Stability. Newcastle had a calm assurance about it which it had been without since Bobby Robson's reign. But one mindless decision has underdone all this.
Ashley and co. have stated that they want a manager with more experience at the top level. And yet they seem certain to appoint Pardew as their new man. It is a ridiculous illustration of the short-sightedness by chairmen up and down the country that is plaguing clubs. They want managers with more experience and yet are unwilling to allow managers to stay on and gain it. Hughton had done all that could possibly be asked of him, he was always going to improve further with time in the top flight but the board did not see it fit to award him the chance to do so.
Hughton's win percentage at Newcastle was 55.71%. Alan Pardew's highest ever win percentage as a manager is 53.13% while managing Southampton down in League One last season. His highest ever Premiership finish was 9th with West Ham back in 2005-06 season. He then led the club to their all time worst run of defeats before being sacked, after which he went to Charlton - whom he got relegated.
It is, by all accounts, a truly baffling decision. Pardew, although he may have more experience in the Premiership, is no more a top class manager than Hughton. Moreover, Hughton had the support of the players and the fans, something that Pardew will have to work very hard to capture, very hard indeed. With the progress the team had been making it seems ludicrous that Ashley would want to undo that by replacing the manager. If he wants the team to grow and improve then surely a shock decision to remove a manager who has been performing so well and had the backing of the entire squad with a manager who can be described as little more than average is counter-productive. Perhaps the mass snow in the north-east has forced the tubby owner to lose all sense of logic and reason.
Some say that Ashley and Pardew are good mates and that Pardew was looking for work. The two supposedly spent a lot of time together as regular frequenters of a London casino. Now, like two drunk idits at a roullette table, they are gambling with the future of Newcastle United Football Club. I hope for football's sake that this is not true. This is one of the biggest football clubs in England and yet Ashley is reportedly treating it like an accounting firm he owns, through which he has got his washed-up mate a job doing the filing.
There is little more I need say. Football fans across the nation have been united in their disbelief of how the events of the last two days have unfolded. The unfathomable actions of Ashley are there for all to see and justifiably rant about. A part of me hopes that Pardew is not appointed in favour of someone else, even if makes this premature post largely pointless. At least if a big name manager is surprisingly drafted in then there will be a little more vindication for sacking Hughton. Another part of me wants Pardew to appointed later today as hopefully this will spark a backlash by fans. Indeed, it would appear as though plans of protests and boycotts already seem in place and quite rightly so.
The Toon Army ought to march on the streets, united by their familiar chant 'Sack the Board!' Ashley continues to make a mockery out of the club and the line must eventually be drawn. Loyalty is hard to come by in football and, amongst chairmen, it seems so too is logic. The last forty-eight hours have shown a disgraceful amount of disrespect towards a loyal servant of the club and an outstanding ignorance of what is in the team's best interests.
Thoughts, comments and opinions please...