‘There’s no doubt that on paper Chris looked strong, and fair play to him, he never gave the club less than 110%,’ Ashley explained. ‘We might even have pressed for a European spot late doors, but at the end of the day Chris had neither been ‘sick as a parrot’ nor ‘over the moon’ for months. That’s not a great advert for the game, and certainly no way to run a whelk stall.’
Team Captain Kevin Nolan agreed. ‘If the boss had just once come out and said he was gutted, or that he was taking each game as it comes, he might have saved his bacon. A simple observation that football is a game of two halves, or that the lads were working their socks off, might have saved him from an early bath, but it would have been too little too late. No one’s too good to go down.’
Other Newcastle players have admitted that week in, week out, Hughton failed to hit the back of the cliché net regularly enough. ‘I never even heard him observe that there are no easy games in this league, or that playing at home was like having an extra player on the pitch. In the modern game that’s just not acceptable. He’s been half a yard off the pace and it would have been a big ask to get back into the game from there. The gaffer’s basically just lost the dressing room. That’s a stonewall sacking.’
But the Magpies squad agreed that Hughton will bounce back. ‘Form’s temporary, but class is permanent. He might have been sacked, but he stepped down well for a big man. We’ve got a mountain to climb if we’re going to turn our season around, but I really think we can dig ourselves out of it.’
Hughton was philosophical last night as he arrived home at his gated faux-Georgian mansion in Alderley Edge. ‘I’ve had a bad day at the office and I’ve been done up like a kipper. I’ve always avoided clichés like the plague, but you win some you lose some. It’s a funny old game,’ he told reporters.
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