Whether they want him or not, the Geordie nation are stuck with Mike Ashley as much as he’s stuck with them. Since the Keegan debacle back in September, the hard pressed fans have continued to watch their beloved Magpies struggle along with no real resolution in sight and last weeks news regarding the long term health of current manager Joe Kinnear leaves them in managerial limbo as Chris Hughton and Colin Calderwood take control of team affairs until further notice. Kinnear had his triple heart bypass operation of Friday and is expected to convalesce for at least 2 months, taking us into the middle of April and misses 8 matches at the earliest if he returns at all this season. Mike Ashley is taking a massive risk in allowing the coaching staff to cover for the foreseeable future with Newcastle only 4 points off the relegation places but what can he do?
The win at West Bromwich was a massive result for the club especially after the very fortunate draw at home to Sunderland but January saw them gather 1 point and get dumped out of the FA Cup, so it was the least they required. I’m just concerned that they could get sucked back into the bottom three and be adrift before any decision on Kinnear’s future is made. After his heart attack whilst manager of Wimbledon, on leaving the club he didn’t return to work for 20 months until Luton Town took a chance on him. The chances that he’ll return in 8 weeks after a major operation is, in my opinion, generous at the very least.I hope everything goes as well as it can for Joe Kinnear and his family and he recovers his health as quickly as possible but his health is the key issue here, that alone is the only thing that should matter to Kinnear and Mike Ashley.
Ashley is stuck with a make or break choice, does he leave the door open for Kinnear to return and allow Hughton and Calderwood to deputise or does he get someone in to take over and help out with some experience of the situation Newcastle find themselves in, probably lowering his stock even further. Whilst Hughton had several years as Assistant Manager at Tottenham, Calderwood has spent his entire managerial career in the lower leagues with Northampton and Nottingham Forest before being sacked in December. The likeable Hughton has already had one spell as caretaker manager of Newcastle this season but Calderwoods managerial skills leave me cold, having seen enough of his Nottingham Forest side to think they managed to get promoted last season in spite of his tactical mistakes. Being seen to push Kinnear out of St James’ Park whilst recovering from his operation would leave a sour taste in the mouths of most fans across the country.
Ashley needs his team to win some games and quickly, to try and assure safety as soon as possible but what happens if they lose the next 3 games? It’s not unthinkable seeing they have Everton and Manchester United at home and a trip to the Reebok Stadium in that run before games against Chelsea, Arsenal and Hull City? Can he afford to see Newcastle relegated whilst Kinnear recovers? Of course he can’t, but can he afford to replace Kinnear without generating even more bad publicity? Once again, of course not. For all the loathing Ashley has garnered during his dreadful run as owner, he certainly generates some sympathy for his situation here. Critics will point to the fact that Kinnear shouldn’t have been appointed at all, he hadn’t managed at the top level for nearly a decade and had been out of work since December 2004 and only got the job because of his connections with Dennis Wise. Ashley is stuck between a rock and hard place and is pining his hopes on two men who haven’t managed in a permanent capacity in the Premiership to keep them out of the relegation zone and it’s not a situation I envy in the slightest, for once Mike Ashley deserves some sympathy.