After a 4-0 home defeat to Arsenal in the Carling Cup the Newcastle United Board issued a statement which saying Chris Hughton’s contract would not be renegotiated until the end of the season.
Despite at the time being ninth in the table, bookies slashed their odds on Hughton being the next Premier League manager to leave his post. At one stage he was 6/1 joint favourite with Avram Grant – manager of rock-bottom West Ham – to be booted out.
Hughton was appointed to the managerial hot-seat in October 2009 after two uninspiring spells in caretaker charge.
With Mike Ashley keen to sell he believed that Hughton was the best short-term answer to spearhead Newcastle’s promotion push.
It was hardly the big-name man that most Toon fans wanted.
Alan Shearer was widely expected to continue in the role despite overseeing a run of one win in the last eight Premiership games which led to relegation. His only victory came against local rivals Middlesbrough, who also went down to the Championship.
However 46 games and 102 points later the decision was more than vindicated.
With 11 games now played this season and 17 points on the board, Newcastle have climbed up to the dizzy heights of fifth place and yet remarkably the board have yet to extend his contract.
After relegation Hughton saw internationals such as Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins, Sebastian Bassong, Mark Viduka and Damien Duff leave the club.
And it is not as if Hughton has been blessed with money in return as he has made do with loans and bargain prices, such as the £500,000 spent on Danny Simpson. And yet has managed to galvanise a team that which had become a laughing stock.
He has also rejuvenated the careers of players like Kevin Nolan and Shola Ameobi who were seemingly on the way down.
He has breathed new confidence to players like Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Gutierrez and Jose Enrique, all of whom looked out of their depth when last in the top-flight.
Hughton also has seemingly managed to control Joey Barton, who is beginning to show the kind of form that won him an England cap back in 2007.
Similarly his reign has overseen the development of the exciting Andy Carroll. Whilst his off-the-field antics have made the headlines for the wrong reason, Hughton would appear to be the sort of calming influence that will help him mature.
This season has produced results beyond even the occasionally deluded Toon Army’s wildest imaginations. The 5-1 mauling of local rivals Sunderland and the 6-0 demolition of Aston Villa are particular highlights.
But the gritty away wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton speak volumes of a side that too often in the past had flair but lacked substance. There is a team ethic about the club which has been lacking since the days of Sir Bobby Robson and Hughton must take huge credit for that.
Hughton has done so much to turnaround the ailing club. They are certainly not the finished product – home defeats to Stoke and Blackpool highlight the enigma that still is Newcastle United.
However if a club came in for Hughton could anyone blame him if he moved on given the little faith the board seem to have in him?
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