Newcastle face loss of Carroll after 'shock' Hughton sacking

Pardew and O'Neill in frame to take over / Players will be hit hard, says Campbell
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The Independent Football

The next Newcastle United manager will be expected to accept that the club could sell highly-rated centre-forward Andy Carroll as the board faced a dressing-room revolt over their decision to sack Chris Hughton yesterday.

Whoever succeeds Hughton is likely to be told that the club will listen to offers for Carroll, who has been identified by Tottenham Hotspur, among others, as a potential transfer target. The 21-year-old, who signed a new five-year deal this season, is Newcastle's one major saleable asset with a value in excess of £15m – which would represent a big profit for the club.

Carroll had a very close relationship with Hughton and the player is understood to be as shocked at the decision to dismiss the manager who brought the club back up from the Championship last season.

Sol Campbell said last night that owner Mike Ashley could face a revolt from the Newcastle players over the decision to sack Hughton. In a forceful interview with ESPN Soccernet, Campbell said that the Newcastle players "are sure to be asking themselves, 'What the hell is going on?'"

Campbell said: "This will hit the players hard. The players admired him and liked him and won't be happy now he's gone like this. It makes no sense. Here is a guy who has done an unbelievable job. He got the club back into the Premier League and any manager would have been rewarded for that with a new contract, but Chris wasn't.

"The players are sure to be asking themselves, 'What the hell is going on?' When we left training [yesterday morning] none of the players had a clue this was coming. Yes, it has come as a shock, and it will affect the dressing room, there is no doubt about that."

The preferred choice for the Newcastle board to succeed Hughton is Martin O'Neill, although the club are aware that it will be a tough sell for the 58-year-old to take the job. Another contender will be Martin Jol, approached before by Ashley, who last night quit as the coach of Dutch club Ajax. There was widespread dismay among fans' groups that Alan Pardew, whose most recent job was at Southampton, was the bookmakers' favourite.

Out of work since his dismissal by Southampton in August, Pardew, 49, is understood to be the fallback option if O'Neill is not amenable to taking the job.

Hughton's exit came as no surprise to many around the club who have witnessed a steady erosion of his authority. He had been denied a new contract – his deal had been due to expire in the summer – and had not been given authority to appoint a new No 2 since the departure of Colin Calderwood in the summer.

The club have temporarily given the job to Peter Beardsley, a former player and latterly reserve team manager. Beardsley has been closely allied with the Ashley regime since it took over and has gone on record to defend the owner.

The club have also dismissed the goalkeeping coach Paul Barron, who was regarded as close to Hughton. In a statement released yesterday the only hint to the board's thinking was their stipulation that they wanted a successor with "more managerial experience".

The feeling within the club was that Ashley and his chairman Derek Llambias believed that Hughton – described by Campbell yesterday as a "lovely guy" – allowed himself to be dictated to by senior players. They regard O'Neill as the kind of character capable of taking on what is regarded as a strong dressing room.

O'Neill's background as a boyhood Sunderland supporter means that his appointment would not be without difficulties. However, giving the job to Pardew is likely to provoke an even stronger reaction among supporters who feel that the club's hierarchy is completely out of touch with the feelings of the fans.

The former Newcastle captain Alan Shearer, also briefly the manager at the end of the 2008-2009 season, said yesterday of Hughton's dismissal: "It's not good, not good news." Shearer also said that he would be interested in the job although given how his relationship with Ashley ended that would seem unlikely. "Despite what happened [at Newcastle] I loved it and if something was to arise again I would seriously look at it," Shearer said.

Hughton said: "I'm immensely proud of my achievements with Newcastle ... the termination of my contract is now in the hands of the LMA [League Managers Association] and I will therefore be making no further comment at this stage."

Even in the five games since Newcastle's last win, an impressive 1-0 success at Arsenal, Hughton can point to a draw with the champions Chelsea. After Sunday's defeat to West Bromwich Albion, a poor result, Hughton still leaves with the team 11th in the Premier League.

Who will fill vacancy?

Alan Pardew (Odds: 8/11)

Top-flight experience with West Ham and Charlton and impressed at Southampton before his sacking in August.

Martin O'Neill (Odds: 5/1)

Made a surprise exit from Aston Villa in August and would be a popular choice. Won numerous trophies with Celtic and two League Cups at Leicester.

Peter Beardsley (Odds: 12/1)

Former Geordie favourite has been placed in charge for the visit of Liverpool this weekend and would be a popular choice.

Alan Shearer (Odds: 50/1)

The club's record goalscorer, 'Super Al' took charge of the Magpies for eight games at the end of the 2008-09 campaign but failed to prevent relegation. Has thriving TV career.