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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 January 2008, 11:15 GMT
The big issues at Newcastle
By Paul Fletcher

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley
Ashley watches games with the fans - but can he deliver success?

Newcastle United are in the familiar position of looking for a new manager.

The next appointment will be the club's seventh since Kenny Dalglish succeeded Kevin Keegan in January 1997, while the wait for silverware on Tyneside is now in its 39th year.

Owner Mike Ashley, having dispensed with Sam Allardyce, faces a crucial decision as he tries to reverse the years of near-failure and frustration at St James' Park.

BBC Sport looks at the big issues now facing the Tyneside club.


Kevin Keegan took Newcastle back to the top-flight and to the cusp of Premier League success with a second-placed finish in 1997.

Former Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan
Keegan came the closest to delivering success at Newcastle

Dalglish's Magpies also managed a runners-up spot while Sir Bobby Robson's team finished fourth, third and fifth in consecutive years.

But neither they, nor Ruud Gullit, Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder and Sam Allardyce, could bring silverware to Tyneside.

Former Newcastle striker Kevin Gallacher believes that the longer the wait has gone on the more difficult it has become.

"Newcastle United has become a poisoned chalice for managers," Gallacher told BBC Sport. "Proven managers who have won trophies elsewhere could not add to their track records at Newcastle.

"The whole club carries a massive expectation, it has become a burden."

Newcastle reached the FA Cup Final in both 1998 and 1999 but since the departure of Robson in 2004 have not come close to ending the long wait for success.

Mark Jenson, editor of Newcastle United fanzine The Mag feels that poor appointments prior to Ashley's takeover is in part to blame.

"I'm sure that the decision to sack Allardyce has been thought through and won't be a short-term solution like Roeder or an appointment like Souness, who was given the job after others turned it down," said Jenson.

Kenny Dalglish
Jan 1997-Aug 1998
Ruud Gullit
Aug 1998-Aug 1999
Sir Bobby Robson
Sep 1999-Aug 2004
Graeme Souness
Sep 2004-Feb 2006
Glenn Roeder
Feb 2006-May 2007
Sam Allardyce
May 2007-Jan 2008

Allardyce was the final appointment by previous chairman Freddy Shepherd. The former Bolton manager had been at the club only a matter of days before news of Ashley's interest came to light.

"Allardyce was not Mike's choice," Tottenham vice-president Paul Kemsley and a close friend of Ashley told BBC Sport.

"Mike took the view of 'lets see if Allardyce can deliver what I want, which is good quality attacking football'."

Allardyce didn't - but his team were not particularly hard to beat either and with the Magpies 11th in the table Ashley decided he had seen enough.


Several big names have been linked with the position, including Harry Redknapp, Jose Mourinho, Alan Shearer, Martin Jol, Mark Hughes and Italy's World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi.

Portsmouth boss Redknapp emerged as the early favourite to succeed Allardyce, but opted to stay at Fratton Park despite receiving a "fantastic offer" from Newcastle.

Gallacher believes that the club needs a manager who is both single-minded enough to make his own decisions but who is able to grasp the relationship between the club and the people of Newcastle.

"You have to get into the heart of the people to understand the club," added Gallacher. "It is about the hunger of the fans, who are mainly working class.


"They want to see players working hard. They want to be entertained, they don't want people strolling around."

Clearly, the new manager must be able to handle the pressure of presiding over a club not so much regarded as a sporting institution but a cornerstone of the community by the people of Newcastle.

As Gallacher points out: "Everybody who looks from the outside thinks Newcastle is a sleeping giant that needs to win some trophies and is well supported, but when you get inside you realise it is bigger than that."

However, the commonly held belief that Newcastle supporters demand entertaining football - and the lack of it under Allardyce cost him his job - is dismissed by both Gallacher and Jenson.

Lifelong supporter Jenson believes it is a "bit of a myth".

"If you have good footballers on the pitch they will win a lot of games and that goes hand in hand with entertaining football," said Jenson.

Kevin Gallacher in action for Newcastle
Gallacher says Newcastle's manager and players must show passion
Gallacher believes that former Chelsea boss Mourinho would make an excellent appointment, citing his relationship with the supporters and players at his former club as a key attribute that would work in his favour.

Peter Reid, former manager of rivals Sunderland and a close friend of Allardyce, would like to see a young British manager such as Blackpool boss Simon Grayson given an opportunity.

"Where did Brian Clough, Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson start? They all started lower down, got experience and then went on to do a great job," Reid told BBC Sport.

"Don't be so blinkered that the grass is greener with these continental coaches because there are plenty who have failed."

Finally, Gallacher points to a quality that cannot be bought or taught.

"Some people say it is better to be a lucky manager than a good manager," he said. "There is certainly an element of luck involved with any successful coach but then again by working hard you make your own luck."


Whoever takes over at Newcastle has several key issues he needs to address before the long wait for a trophy comes to an end.

"The new manager comes in will have to look at the club internally," said Gallacher.

"They will need to have a look at the backroom team at the club. Big Sam brought all his own men to the club. They moved when Sam left Bolton so they might move again - that will be something the new manager must consider."

There is also the issue of the current squad at the club.

The Newcastle supporters are desperate for success
The new boss must understand the bond between club and fans
"On paper Newcastle have a good side, but you don't win games on paper," said former striker Gallacher.

"It depends who the manager is but if he comes from this country then he will know the English game.

"There might be people out there that he wanted to buy before but could not afford."

The new manager will be Ashley's appointment and if there was a lack of support for Allardyce then the situation will be different once the billionaire has brought his own man to the club.

"Mike has put 250m in already and will put more in," added Kemsley.

"I suspect he wants to invest with his own man and his own team."

Adds Jenson: "I believe the new boss will be given time to show they are right for the job. Most reasonable fans know there will be no quick fix."


Ashley was regarded as something of a recluse in the business world before buying Newcastle but has been highly visible since by watching his team alongside ordinary supporters.

It has led to suggestions that he has been overly influenced by fans, who time and again voiced their displeasure at Allardyce's Newcastle.

But Gallacher does not think Ashley's sitting with them has unduly affected his thinking.

"He sits with the fans but then he must put his tin hat on as the owner and think about what the club actually needs rather than what the fans think should happen," added Gallacher.

Mike Ashley watches the team he owns from the stands
Ashley is know for sitting with ordinary supporters
"He is a very shrewd businessman and knows what he wants. He will not have fired Sam for nothing but will have a plan in his head of who he wants to come in."

Jenson has been impressed by the changes at the club under Ashley and is confident the billionaire, who made his fortune in the sporting goods market, is the right man to take Newcastle forward.

"I think the new owner has brought a massive amount of stability to the club and is doing great work behind the scenes," added Jenson.

"I don't think he has got where he has by making snap judgements on what one or two fans have said to him.

"But I love the fact he has bought in to the club and seems to care about it as much as the fans. He seems to crave success as much as we do."

And Kemsley believes that, given time, Ashley will ensure that Newcastle's long wait for success finally ends.

"I absolutely know that if you give him time he will deliver what the Newcastle fans want," added Kemsley.

"He is definitely going to deliver. He has paid off all the debts and the club is in as good a financial position as it has ever been."

Redknapp rejects Newcastle offer
12 Jan 08 |  Premier League
Pompey insist Redknapp will stay
10 Jan 08 |  Newcastle United
Allardyce vows to resume career
10 Jan 08 |  Newcastle United
Allardyce reign ends at Newcastle
09 Jan 08 |  Newcastle United
Allardyce in photos
09 Jan 08 |  Football
Big Sam's wrong turn
09 Jan 08 |  Newcastle United
Debate: Newcastle fan's view
09 Jan 08 |  Football
Comment: Magpies madness
09 Jan 08 |  Newcastle United
Shearer ends career on high note
11 May 06 |  Newcastle United


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