Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shepherd Must Have a Long-Term Stratgey

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Shepherd Must Have a Long-Term Stratgey

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

A Newcastle side which has lurched from one debacle to the next this season is now without a manager following the dismissal of Graeme Souness. Chief Sports Writer Paul Gilder reports on where the club goes from here

Graeme Souness spent Tuesday evening enjoying a meal in his favourite restaurant in Manchester. Little did he know it would be virtually his last supper as the manager of Newcastle United.

Within 36 hours the Scot had been sacked, as Freddie Shepherd indicated he had no appetite for the relegation battle his beleaguered manager had predicted in the aftermath of another disastrous defeat for an expensively assembled side. Among supporters starved of success, there were few dissenting voices.

The two men had been at loggerheads for weeks and, with a parting of the ways having long been inevitable, the sole point of conjecture was the timing. At 11.40am yesterday, the announcement finally came.

As he endured the sub-zero temperatures at the City of Manchester Stadium on Wednesday evening, Shepherd's countenance was icy as a team approaching Souness' strongest set new standards of ineptitude.

In what became his final public pronouncement as Magpies manager, the Scot insisted for the umpteenth time in recent weeks that he would not resign his post. He did not need to, Shepherd had heard enough.

Having relieved Souness of his post, a man who has now employed four Newcastle managers during his colourful chairmanship finds himself in a familiar situation.

There is no question that Shepherd got it badly wrong the last time he acted so, with United in a precarious position and relegation a genuine fear, he cannot afford to do so again. Quite literally.

The bookmakers were quick to act in light of Souness' departure and, as usual, the list of potential successors was peppered with some of the biggest names in the game.

From Sven-GUran Eriksson to Sam Allardyce, Guus Hiddink to Martin O'Neill and Paul Jewell to Louis van Gaal, the collection of contenders read like a Who's Who of managerial talent.

It would make for encouraging reading for the Geordie Nation were it not for one nagging question: Who is going to want to take a job which, during the Shepherd era, has come to characterise managerial suicide?

Leave aside Sir Bobby Robson, who, during a five-year reign on Tyneside, came so close to bucking the trend, and Shepherd's impatience does not appeal to the game's biggest names.

Ruud Gullit lasted just 12 months and, although he resigned his post, the Dutchman would have been axed had he not walked. Kenny Dalglish was just 19 months into his reign when he was sacked, Souness was 17.

That the reign of the latest United boss was so short will have done nothing to have repaired a damaging reputation. …

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