Salut! Sunderland believes there should be banter between Sunderland and Newcastle United fans, and that this is entirely healthy and human but should not descend into barbarian tribalism. When we write about the Mags – and why in heaven’s name should a football site not do so? – it is not surprising that United fans should come here to see what has been said, and perhaps to have a go back. Some responses are witty or intelligent, a few are humourless or neanderthal, and I imagine it would be the same the other way round. Here, our mysterious Birflatt Boy makes some telling points about goings-on up the road …
In the world of football it’s rare if not unprecedented for there to be unanimity and consensus about anything.
It might be the performance of a particular player last weekend or whether a penalty decision should have been given the other way, or something more trivial.
Regardless of the topic, any debate is routinely spawned by a difference of opinion.
When Tony Blair decided that it was a good idea for our forces to invade Iraq I don’t recall encountering a single individual who thought that it was a good idea, irrespective of political persuasion, age, gender or whatever, regardless of political persuasion, age, gender, or whatever. This is unusual in the extreme, where seemingly everyone apart from the person making the decision thinks that it’s a bad idea.
Leaders in politics, business and indeed sport need to be bold in their thinking and often need to act, taking the ruthless decisions which would make others shudder.
You’d think that Mike Ashley’s decision to jettison Chris Hughton yesterday was on par with Blair’s commitment to war, if you looked at the reaction in the media, and on various websites etc.
It isn’t of course and no matter how much you may be offended at the dismissal of a decent bloke who seemed to be doing a pretty good job, these events can not and should not be compared with the momentous decisions which took the nation to war. Foolishness and boldness are close cousins.
It’s easy to criticise and condemn Mike Ashley for the simple reason that he has made some of the most ill conceived and ridiculous decisions that have ever been made in a football club boardroom.
The problem that he had with Chris Hughton was simply that he didn’t choose him. Hughton took control in the wake of Joe Kinnear’s illness and then the ill-fated experiment with Shearer and Dowie. Hughton happened to be there. The dignified, professional and quiet approach he took provided not only a period of stability but considerable success for NUFC and indeed for Mike Ashley.
It seems that it’s the very stability and decency that Hughton brought to the manager’s job that has offended Messrs Ashley and Llambias the most.
Hughton’s considered attitude and demeanour delivered dignity to a club which had become and has now been resurrected as English football’s laughing stock. Ashley is repelled by decency. The amiable Kevin Keegan was outflanked by Ashley’s appointment of Dennis Wise, better known for his altercation with a taxi driver (the assault conviction and jail sentence were overturned on appeal) than for any achievement in football.
Keegan was ousted shortly after he had replaced Sam Allardyce, despite his widespread popularity. Keegan was replaced by the man now referred to most frequently by the initials JFK, a moniker he was given for a foul mouthed tirade which included calling one journalist a c***.
There appears to be a trend here. Replace a fans’ favourite with a complete nonentity and see what happens. Keegan followed by Kinnear, followed by Shearer, followed by Hughton.
The difficulties faced by Chris Hughton were not that he was incompetent when he was fired, it was simply that he turned out to be very competent when he was given the job in the first place, whose stock is now higher than ever.
Ashley’s problem is that he can’t tell the difference, and seems to revel in the chaos and animosity which continue to be directed towards him. At this point he has become so vilified by what should be his own public that the task presented to the new manager is one of Herculean proportions.
The players appear ready to revolt and whoever the next manager at St James’ Park might be he will be regarded as Ashley’s puppet, although invariably he will become Ashley’s scapegoat, even if it’s only in his own eyes. Even if he manages to make what should be a good managerial appointment he has created those conditions which will almost assuredly make it a bad one.