It has been an interesting few weeks for Newcastle United. The Toon Army look set for a quick return to the Premier League thanks to the steadying influence of an Irish Legend currently occupying the managerial hot seat. If Chris Hughton can bring Premier League football back to Newcastle United, should he not be considered by the FAI and Irish fans as a suitable replacement for Giovanni Trapattoni if /when the Italian decides to step down?
Following a turbulent spell which saw Owner Mike Ashley fail to find a buyer for the club and Gallowgate End hero Alan Shearer fail to prevent relegation from the top tier of English football, Chris Hughton has proven a breath of fresh air at St. James’ Park. The softly-spoken Irishman has proven a hit with players and fans as Steven Taylor’s comments testify:
“His door is always open to everyone and the lads love him for it. He’s a real players’ manager who has had nowhere near the praise he deserves. You’ll never, ever, hear anyone moaning about Chris around this place. It makes a big change at Newcastle United but we all respect him far too much for that.”
Hughton, after much personal deliberation about taking the role, has made the job his own and few would bet against United returning to the Premier League at the first attempt. The manager has had to be content with much of the squad he inherited from the previous management regime but got on with the job with little fuss and Newcastle are certainly reaping the benefits.
Recent tabloid reports stated Giovanni Trapattoni was being chased by the Turkish National FA prompting immediate denials and reassertions from the FAI that the Italian was going nowhere and was fully focused on the upcoming draw for the European Championships. Trapattoni may or may not be in charge once the 2012 tournament has been completed and any international federation worth their salt should be looking beyond the next tournament for their next potential manager.
Hughton should be considered for the Irish job e especially if he continues to turn around the fortunes of Newcastle United. He has international experience as a coach under Brian Kerr for the Republic, is well respected by the Irish fans and doesn’t seem to possess the ego of most other English-based managers (We are looking at you Phil Brown).
He joined Newcastle in 2008 as a member of Kevin Keegan’s coaching panel. Hughton has since been thrust into the care-taker managers’ role on two separate occasions during a troubled time for the club. He was confirmed as outright manager only last November but has won three Championship Manager of the Month awards since taking the reins.
Chris Hughton was the first black footballer to represent the Republic of Ireland at international level and he won 53 caps for the Republic of Ireland from 1979 to 1991. He was part of the nation’s final squads for Euro 1988 and 1990 World Cup. Hughton is no stranger to the FAI as he served as the national team’s assistant manager under Brian Kerr, from February 2003 to October 2005.
A new shirt deal with Puma has just been announced as well as a new sponsorship deal with Northern Rock reputedly worth 10 million pounds. It’s refreshing to read such positive headlines about a club so often
associated with and despondency. No other English city is more deserving of success for its club than Newcastle and Chris Hughton deserves a lot of praise for contributing to the club’s revival.
Hughton stood passively on the St. James’ Park touchline last night and witnessed his Newcastle side twice come from behind to grab a valuable point and remain top of the Championship. Roberto Di Matteo’s West Brom outfit came away from the North East with a welcome share of the spoils but once again Newcastle did enough to remain top of the table (they have only failed to win at home 4 times this term) and maintain their push for promotion.
Hughton’s side play attractive football, has become hard to beat both home and away and appear not to fear any opposition in the most competitive of divisions outside the top tier of European Leagues.
Is it outlandish to speculate then that – should he continue his current successful run – some day in the future Chris Hughton could be standing on the sidelines of the Avia Stadium in Dublin as the Rep. of Ireland attempt to qualify for a World Cup?
Ger McCarthy is the author of Off Centre Circle, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork League junior footballer.