Early Doors

Ashley insulting Geordie intelligence

Early Doors

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As part of the infamous 'London media' (even if, in reality, this means working out of a rusting shed just off the end of Heathrow's south runway), Early Doors naturally has a voyeuristic desire to gawp at over-excitable Toon fans lining up in their thousands to celebrate the signing of some washed-up journeyman or, even better, declare King Kev as a returning messiah.

But a little-known fact about ED is that, while enjoying a touch of Magpie mockery, it actually holds flash, obese cockneys in far greater contempt, particularly those who show little regard for those who they are meant to serve.

Hot on the heels of striking tube drivers, Mike Ashley is the latest commuter belt native to incur the wrath of ED, and not for the first time.

Ashley's school of football administration may seem peculiar, but it is in keeping with many chairmen who use their business principles in their costly pastime of professional sport.

The Glazer family are ambitious but conservative, hedging massive debts against the promise of long-term gains and trusting in staff development and shrewd management; Roman Abramovich is dominant and cut-throat, preferring to spend more for ready-made acquisitions that yield instant results than to speculate on potential; Mohamed Al-Fayed is aggressively eccentric but clever and patient, researching his market but knowing when he has erred and quick to move on (in business terms, not conspiracy theories).

As a man who made his fortune flogging cheap sportswear to people on benefits, Ashley possibly thought a 'consumer-driven strategy' would placate the notoriously demanding and fickle Geordie fans. In other words, give the punters what they want.

Sam Allardyce was decidedly unpopular among Toon support so, despite a respectable league position for a side who had struggled since Sir Bobby was sacked, the man who took Bolton into Europe was tossed aside after less than half a season.

Kevin Keegan was popular among Toon support so he was the man and when he reverted to type and huffed off - and when Joe 'JFK' Kinnear ranted himself back into another coronary - the similarly idolised Alan Shearer was hailed as natural heir.

None of this worked so Ashley, it appeared, learned his lesson and did the sensible thing, the thing that any sporting organisation should do: he allowed a club man and a football man to coach the team to relative success.

So it seemed. What has become clear is that Ashley never wanted Chris Hughton in charge and only stuck with him last season for want of a better option, or one who would be prepared to muck it out in the Championship.

It has also become clear that, despite unprecedented success in dominating the second tier of English football, Ashley wanted Hughton out anyway, and only kept faith because it would have enraged the fans whose pulse he erroneously believes he monitors.

Spurs fan Ashley was waiting for a dodgy run of form, a poor performance and result to give sacking Hughton the credence that, he assumed, would placate support impassioned by last season.

But football is not budget retail with a demographic of teenage hoodies and overweight slackers who will literally wear anything elasticated.

They may be over-emotional but football fans are wise to their clubs' concerns and, given the way the game has changed, understandably cynical. The clowns who flock to St James' to speak to Sky Sports News at the drop of Carroll's fist might give fans a bad name, but the Geordies are not stupid.

They are also fiercely loyal to those they deem equally loyal - even if Newcastle finished 17th, above the drop zone on goals scored, the Black and White Army will treasure the 5-1 humping of Sunderland for generations.

The team that bossed its way to promotion last season was largely the same side that got relegated, minus higher-earning stars like Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Damien Duff. And much the same team beat Sunderland, Arsenal and Everton and drew with Chelsea. Testament to Hughton's man management and coaching ability.

Newcastle say they want a more experienced manager, but what, pray tell, does Ashley think such a man has to offer a side that a former England boss, a Toon legend and a seasoned old toad respectively could not do?

Ashley has made a Tyneside-sized rod for his own (admittedly mighty) back: he simply has to get a big, big name, someone who through force of personality and celebrity can attract top players to St James' Park and who can coach what he already has at his disposal into the top eight.

Martin Jol is the ready-made replacement after quitting Ajax, although he has already been burned by deluded executives once, sacked by Tottenham for finishing fifth.

If Jol does not join, Ashley must give Martin ONeill the assurances Aston Villa and Randy Lerner could not regarding control and budget. Fat chance (pun intended).

And if he cannot do that, he must convince Frank Rijkaard he can do a better job than Ruud Gullit for the Toon.

And as a cartoon in this morning's Times points out, any experienced manager will be experienced enough not to touch the job with a bargepole.

Should he fail there, then there may well be full-scale revolt in the North East.

Because Alan Pardew, the early favourite yesterday, would not cut the mustard at many Championship sides, let alone one that had - with the Prem in its current state - every chance of qualifying for the Europa League under the guidance of one of the few good men left in the English game.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Sol Campbell, whose dismal performance at West Brom helped earn Hughton his P45: "This will hit the players hard. The players admired him and liked him and won't be happy now he's gone like this. It makes no sense. Here is a guy who has done an unbelievable job. He got the club back into the Premier League and any manager would have been rewarded for that with a new contract, but Chris wasn't. The players are sure to be asking themselves, 'What the hell is going on?', that is only natural. When we left training this morning none of the players had a clue this was coming. Yes, it has come as a shock, and it will affect the dressing room - there is no doubt about that."

FOREIGN VIEW: FIFA is not considering a reform of its voting system for choosing World Cup hosts despite the controversy which surrounded the decision on the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, general secretary Jerome Valcke has said.

"We just voted last Thursday. We have not sat down to discuss a reform of the voting system. It is not part of our discussions at the moment," Valcke said.

On Thursday, the body's executive committee voted to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar, prompting complaints that politics had played too large a part in the process.

"Yes, it is a political decision... But overall, I think reactions were positive. The decision was fairly well received by football fans. It shows that football is open to the world," Valcke added.

COMING UP: Full live coverage of all eight Champions League matches, including Twente v Tottenham and Manchester United v Valencia.

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