'Absurdly bad decision' leaves Newcastle's fans in a state of shock

Ashley's latest move is sadly typical of knee-jerk attitude at club writes St James' Park regular Kevin Rawlinson

Sunday's performance from the Newcastle United players, as in a few matches this season, was lacklustre at best. Fans who had battled through transport chaos to get to West Bromwich vented their frustration as they and their team froze at The Hawthorns.

But, even as the gloomy resignation to a poor defeat descended on those of us in the away end, a chant began to rise up from the Geordies behind the goal: "Chrissy Hughton's black and white army," they sang, over and over.

Hughton is, to them as to me, the man who saved our club from the footballing abyss it was threatening to jump into following relegation from the Premier League in 2009.

As Hughton held the Championship trophy aloft at St James' Park, the fans knew he had won it despite losing some very talented players the previous summer, despite spending a relatively small sum of money and despite nobody having even given him a chance of getting the job in the first place.

We appreciate the air of honest professionalism, of class and of dignity he has displayed at the club. It is one which shames the board.

Newcastle left the Premier League an overpaid and underconfident rabble. Thanks to Hughton, they returned to it a team. Finally, fans thought by so many to be obsessed with Messiahs and big names had what we really wanted: a genuine football man at the helm.

But even that has not been enough to shield him from the contemptible brand of treatment which characterises Mike Ashley's time at Newcastle.

In the stands talk has been of how the players under Hughton "at least looked like they wanted it". Today, the fans simply fail to understand how a manager who seems to have done everything asked of him could be considered so dispensable.

Tony Fiddes, a writer for leading Newcastle United fanzine The Mag, summed up the disappointment. He said: "It is a sad indictment of the knee-jerk way the club has been run for a long time. It is reminiscent of the Freddy Shepherd era, there doesn't appear to be a plan A, never mind a plan B."

Fans began posting almost immediately on social networking sites and blogs. "Mike Ashley" shot to the top of the trend list on Twitter.

A weary comment from True Faith, a respected supporters' site, is indicative of the increasingly numb acceptance among Newcastle fans. "We'll put something over on the editorial front when we get our heads round what, on the face of it, is an absurdly bad decision from the board," the post read.

Ashley seems to have a talent for seeking out any glimmer of light at Newcastle and smothering it. The club's statement announcing the sacking came with the team lying 11th in the League. It claimed the board wanted someone with "more managerial experience". Expect the phrase "big name" to be mentioned in the near future. Expect topless Geordies to be wheeled out in front of Sky Sports News cameras to call for Jose Mourinho's appointment. But do not be fooled by it.

The fans do not crave a Messiah, they crave success. Under Hughton they looked like a football team. But that, apparently, is not on the board's agenda.

Tyne line: Mike Ashley's turbulent tenure at St James' Park

July 2007

* Pays £134m to take full control of the club.

November

* Refused entry into box at Sunderland for wearing replica shirt.

9 January 2008

* Sacks Sam Allardyce, with Kevin Keegan returning as manager.

30 August

* Warned by police after downing a pint sitting with supporters at Arsenal's Emirates stadium.

September

* Keegan resigns. Puts club up for sale and names Joe Kinnear as interim manager.

28 December

* Takes club off the market.

7 February 2009

* Kinnear taken to hospital with heart problems. Places Chris Hughton in temporary charge.

1 April

* Names Alan Shearer interim manager.

24 May

* Newcastle relegated to Championship. Shearer departs club.

8 June

* Puts club up for sale, with an asking price of £100m.

August

* Hughton begins the season in caretaker charge.

2 October

* Club ordered to pay Keegan £2m in damages and compensation.

19 October

* Admits his regret at buying the club. "I tried my best, but I accept my best was woefully short."

27 October

* Takes club off market. Makes Hughton full-time manager

4 November

* Renames stadium after his leisurewear company Sports Direct.

5 April 2010

* Newcastle promoted to Premier League.

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