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Newcastle United – did Sam and Ashley fight or did Sam lose the dressing room?



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Note to Newcastle United – when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

This is not said lightly – I have great affection for the romance that surrounds Newcastle United and admit to have been swept, like many others, by the swell of goodwill that engulfs fans and followers (including the media) whenever Newcastle United do well.

And yet, Mike Ashley has taken a big risk by sacking Sam Allardyce, one that puts a lot of pressure on him to find the right man to succeed Big Sam AND to dispel the fear that he’s not another Abramovich looking for pretty football over long-term progress and growth.

To expect Sam Allardyce to deliver the type of football Newcastle fans dream about and then berate him for failing to do so shows a spectacular naivety on the part of the observer – Sam’s strength was, and has always been, developing training systems and implementing a player development infrastructure. In a limited setting, with things going his way, he was able to take Bolton up the Premier League table.

Starting from scratch, against tougher competition – how would you expect him to deliver anything better than a top-10 finish, and considering the injuries, anything better than mid-table obscurity?

Fans have called him out on the unimaginative and unattractive style Newcastle displayed under his management, but at this point – and Sam spoke out about it to the detriment of his career – the players were as much to blame. In any situation, if a player is not giving it his 100% then the manager has 2 choices – he can bench him or continue playing him. Neither method worked for several Newcastle United players.

Tactically, Big Sam made grave errors – and apparently his reasoning did not satisfy Mike Ashley, the owner/fan who decided that he had better judgment in footballing matters than his manager and thus sacked Big Sam.

Would keeping Sam onboard for this season (at least) and possibly the next changed things? If anything, Sam would have had the chance, in 2 years, to build his team and perhaps build the base from which he or a better manager could deliver the type of football Newcastle fans dream about?

The party line – as leaked to the press by Ashley’s friend – is that Sam was not Ashley’s choice, but Ashley wanted to give Sam a shot and when he failed and more importantly, failed to change things around after meeting with Mort and Ashley, it was decided to part ways.

For Newcastle’s sake, I hope that Ashley and Mort know something that we don’t. On the evidence available in the media and from watching Newcastle play, unless Ashley has a Mourinho or Lippi lined up to take over, or unless Allardyce had lost the dressing room completely or had done something extremely stupid like defend Barton ad nauseam, the decision to sack Sam Allardyce is stupid and short-sighted.

Hughes / Moyes are marginally better and both got the stability they needed, Redknapp had a specific set of fortunate circumstances that went his way at Portsmouth, circumstances that are unlikely to repeat themselves at Newcastle. Shearer is no good, Gullit and Klinsmann are taken, Robson is out, Venables or McClaren will make Newcastle the laughing stock of England and Kevin Keegan is perhaps not suited to managing Newcastle in the present incarnation of the Premier League.

Oh, and Mourinho isn’t coming. Redknapp could step in and bring about a revolution, but at this point Arsenal seem more likely to win the quadruple than Newcastle play considerably better under Redknapp than they did under Big Sam. Everything about this situation points to either a strong disagreement between Ashley and Allardyce over an internal matter (something we’re not privy to) or that Allardyce had lost the dressing room (it has happened before – Pardew at West Ham, anyone?).

Ashley owns Newcastle United – and he has the full right to run it as he sees fit. However, if he wants his club to win something in the next 5 years, sacking a manager because the team doesn’t play pretty in the first season is NOT the way to do it. He seems like the smart businessman too, so perhaps his judgment is to be trusted?

Too bad we’ll never know the full truth, eh? Ashley, like Abramovich, stays away from talking too much to the press. It’s a smart move, why air your dirty laundry in public and feed the media hounds?

Good luck to Newcastle United – they’ll need it.