Posts Tagged ‘Premier League|soccer’

After suffering relegation from the Premier League last season and club owner Mike Ashley eagerly trying to sell his stake in Newcastle United, the future of the Magpies didn't look good.

Chris Hughton was stuck in the middle of that mess. The former Republic of Ireland international had been assistant manager to Joe Kinnear in the 2008/09 campaign, then took over as caretaker boss before assisting Alan Shearer.

But Shearer was refusing to come back until certain things could be sorted out, Ashley was struggling to perk the interest of potential investors and a new season - albeit in the Coca-Cola Championship - was rapidly approaching.

Hughton decided to help out as much as he could. He took charge of the team during pre-season, which included a trip over to Dublin to play Shamrock Rovers, and got the players focusing on football when nobody was quite sure what was happening behind the scenes at St James's Park.

Then the season kicked off and Hughton was still in his caretaker role. But after guiding them to an impressive start of seven games unbeaten he was appointed as manager on a full-time basis. That allowed him to really make his mark.

Stamping down his own style

As soon as he handed the reins, Hughton began planning ahead. He thought about what players he wanted to bring in, who he could do without and what would be the best way to keep the club in the mix for automatic promotion.

Okay there is no denying that he was lucky to have experienced players like Steve Harper, Nicky Butt, Alan Smith and Kevin Nolan already in his squad, but as the evidence suggests with the failure of previous managers getting those type of players to play well consistently for Newcastle is a challenge.

Hughton has achieved it by introducing his own style. There is nothing overly clever about how the club play under him - they set up with a strong defence, usually employ a holding midfielder, rely on their wingers to combine with the strikers to create the bulk of their chances and encourage at least one, sometimes two, midfielders to counter attack as much as possible.

They have tended to mix things up with selection and formation, but every player knows exactly what is required of them once they are on the pitch and that is a sign of a good manager. The stamp that he has enforced more than any other is that Newcastle are finally playing like a team.

A lot more still to come

Due to the fact that Newcastle are playing in the Championship this season there is little chance that Hughton will win the Manager of the Year award. But he should be in the running for it. Not only has he helped to stabilize Newcastle, but they have rarely been off top spot in the second tier of English football.

After beating Scunthorpe United 3-0 on Wednesday evening, the Magpies opened up a four-point lead at the top of the table - and they still have a game in hand. Promotion looks to be a certainty at this stage, so Hughton is set to cap off his first year in management on a high.

It will be very interesting to see what he does over the summer months to prepare for Premier League football again. That will be the time when his own ideas really kick in as his budget will increase and so will expectations.

He has spent a long time as a coach and assistant manager, so Hughton fully deserved his chance to prove himself as a manager. It has worked out for him so far and the future now looks bright for both him and Newcastle.
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Roy Keane's start to life as Ipswich Town manager has been quite.....well......disappointing. The results and some of the performances have been underwhelming, although that could be due to the heightened expectations that he lugs around with him.

The former Manchester United captain has been forced to learn the hard way that there is a reason why the bulk of his squad is made up with the type of players it is - they were not considered good enough elsewhere.

Of course, there are always some exceptions but the manager has had to figure out that his current crop cannot play to the standards he wants them to.

Some will say that he should have learned this lesson when in charge at Sunderland. Maybe he did, but only to a certain extent. After all, that Sunderland squad was a lot better than the current Ipswich one - plus he was given funds with which to bring in plenty of new faces.

So is it that surprising that they have been lurking around the bottom of the Championship table? Well yes it is. Keane is surely a better manager than what he has shown so far at Portman Road and his team's recent results (unbeaten in their last seven games) are starting to show that there is something worth fighting for at the club.

The only way is up.......or so he hopes

When he agreed to take over at Ipswich, Keane stated that his plan was to guide them to promotion after two years. Well the halfway report for Year One is almost due and it won't be pretty reading for the board of directors. However, they will be heartened by the fact that improvements have been made.

Every manager makes mistakes. Keane tends to make a lot of his in the public eye. But at least he is learning from them. For example, he has gone some way to sorting out his goalkeeping crisis by signing Brian Murphy, rightly restored Owen Garvan to his midfield, and identified the need to find a goalscorer.

Bravo Roy. If he keeps this up, then Ipswich will surely leapfrog a lot of the mid-level clubs that occupy the lower half of the Championship. A few wins and The Tractor Boys will be sniffing around the promotion play-off places.

Right now it may look like a big ask to achieve promotion, but the Championship is the type of league where teams swap places every week and a good run of results that elevate teams into positions they never thought they could reach.

Taking over the spotlight

In recent weeks Keane has been in the news for a lot of the wrong reasons. He has made comments that have in turned created headlines and stories that are still running today.

Was this a deliberate tactic by the 38-year-old? Did he only say those things so that the pressure would be lifted off his under-performing team and focused on himself instead?

It wouldn't be that surprising if he did do it on purpose. Keane is a very clever person and knows that he can distract the media whenever he wants. And maybe, just maybe, that was the breather his team needed to get their results back on track.

New recruits will be key

In order for Keane to get Ipswich up into the play-off places and stay there, he will need to be clever with his signings in January. As already stated Murphy is signed on and waiting, although he needs reinforcements that will bring quality and consistency.

Speculation has suggested that he is eyeing up a move for Barnet striker John O'Flynn, while Bohemians youngster Conor Powell is seen as the answer to his left-back problems. Both of those would be good signings, but the fans will be expecting at least one big name to arrive at the club when the transfer window re-opens.

The contacts that Keane has made throughout his career should come in handy when he attempts to bring new faces in. It will be interesting to see who he targets and what sort of impact they can have on Ipswich.

Promotion was the two-year target, but it can be achieved this year if Keane sorts out all of the issues that hampered his team's performances earlier in the season and he gets the best out of the players that he has.


Eirefan: I agree that goalkeepers need a lot of cover from their defence, but a good keeper organises his defence. Then again keepers can stand out all on their own and I think Ireland has produced (and continues to) some top class shot-stoppers over the years. The future looks bright in that department for the national team for some years to come.
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