Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Hugh -to on Army on the March; GIBBO

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Hugh -to on Army on the March; GIBBO

Article excerpt

LET ME, in this season of goodwill, congratulate United's band of sturdy football men upon their collective performances on our behalf. May I also offer thanks to Mike Ashley for his inability to mess up such constructive endeavour on the field of play, but not his inability to sell the club.

During a summer of apprehension most Geordies presumed that the limited quality housed within St James' Park would bail out double quick leaving only a rag, tag and bobtail squad to stutter though the minefield of the Championship.

Instead it turns out that it was the cream who stayed, those with character and backbone which in this division counts for almost as much as ability. While Michael Owen, Habib Baye, Sebastien Bassong et al couldn't hit the Tyne Bridge quick enough, Chris Hughton was catapulted into a seat supposedly being kept for Alan Shearer and proceeded to win more Manager of the Month awards than Fergie, Arsene and 'Arry put together.

His greatest attributes for his new job - calmness and honesty with his players critical in a time of crisis.

As for those under his command Shola Ameobi, Alan Smith, Fabricio Coloccini and Kevin Nolan have found a level greatly to their taste, while kids Andy Carroll and Nile Ranger were given the perfect playground upon which to develop and gain vital experience.

The backbone, of course, is provided by the men of true ability who have led by example - Steven Taylor, who was terrified he could be forced out of his club through Ashley's greed, the wonderfully progressing Jose Enrique, and Steve Harper, whose unflinching loyalty has been rewarded at last with a constant first-team place.

The mental attitude has been spot on, even though promotion back to the Premier League would probably prove a step too far for the tired and battered legs of Smith and Nicky Butt. They are United's joint skippers who toil valiantly if against their own interests in some ways. …

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