Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Rafa Can Only Equal Chris's Achievements

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Rafa Can Only Equal Chris's Achievements

Article excerpt

MIKE ASHLEY, twice under extreme pressure after taking a giant of a club Newcastle United to relegation, reacted in very different ways to his disasters.

Ashley's answer to accusations of incompetence have brought about two extremes. The first time, at the end of 2008-09, his reaction was to appoint a rookie manager, Chris Hughton, and degrade him by only handing out the title of caretaker.

That it turned out, against all odds, to be a masterstroke was more by accident than design as far as United's owner was concerned, and the sack was always a constant companion.

This time Ashley, faced with losing the Sky TV millions, capitulated to public opinion and appointed Rafa Benitez, a blue-chip manager who gathered in trophies with mighty clubs like Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli and Real Madrid.

Yet incredibly, Rafa can only equal what the totally inexperienced Hughton achieved - promotion as champions within a single season.

Hughton had played for and then coached Tottenham Hotspur literally for years, seemingly comfortable in the shadows where he remained after Dennis Wise brought him to SJP in a similar supportive role.

It was during the illfated second coming of Kevin Keegan and the sudden departure of a Newcastle legend that sparked a series of knee-jerk decisions.

Hughton was caretaker for a short while until kicked into touch for Joe Kinnear, a dreadful appointment.

When Kinnear succumbed to ill health, Hughton became caretaker again until relegation appeared to be more and more of a reality; he was dumped a second time for Newcastle's greatest ever goalscorer Alan Shearer, who sadly could not prevent the inevitable during an eight-match run-in.

Come the start of United's Championship season, Hughton the yo-yo man was back in charge, although Ashley was never far away from plugging in the hot seat to the SJP mains. …

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