Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Quiet Man Who Rose to United Challenge

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Quiet Man Who Rose to United Challenge

Article excerpt


IN the summer of 2009 Newcastle United were at a pretty low ebb.

They were relegated, managerless, up for sale and with a queue of egos wanting to leave but no-one prepared to open the exit door.

United did not look like a club which had hit rock bottom - it seemed they still had some way to fall.

The last time things had been this grim, they turned to a brash club legend. But with Kevin Keegan having gone, come back and gone again, that door was firmly closed.

Instead, Mike Ashley pulled a quiet man out of the backroom while he stalled for time.

It was not a popular choice. Expecting Alan Shearer as manager, Newcastle's fans got Chris Hughton as caretaker. If Ruud Gullit had arrived on a (false) promise of sexy football, The Quiet Man was about as sexy as a wet Tuesday night in Scunthorpe. That, though, is what Newcastle would be faced with.

The Quiet Man had twice been caretaker the previous season, twice failing to inspire a revival. Perhaps Ashley thought it would be third time lucky - surprisingly he was right.

Recognising it was time for a fresh start, Hughton left a dressing room full of spikey characters to it. They got Newcastle into this mess, they must get them out of it. Once the mercenaries were weeded out - after a painful pre-season thrashing at Leyton Orient - the rest took responsibility.

Acknowledging their part in Newcastle's downfall and keen to help an honest, decent man get the job full-time, they were suitably inspired. At the end of his first two months, The Quiet Man sneaked off with manager of the month awards, desperately deflecting the praise.

Realising he had stumbled on a good thing, Ashley belatedly gave The Quiet Man his first full-time job in management. Another manager of the month gong followed.

Slowly, the fans were won over. They sang his name. He looked embarrassed.

Newcastle ended the season the only club in England not to lose at home, strolling to the title. The Quiet Man said he would celebrate "with a nice cup of tea".

Now, though, the flat-track bullies would be found out. …

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