FIVE months after his controversial sacking by Newcastle United, Chris Hughton still questions if he could have performed better as manager. But the Londoner’s conclusion is that he exceeded expectations at St James’ Park.
After two underwhelming spells as caretaker manager, Hughton was again asked to take the reins after relegation from the Premier League in 2009.
The club was at a low ebb but Hughton revitalised it, moving on uncommitted players, galvanising the spirit among those who remained, and leading the Magpies to the Championship title at his first attempt. Back in the Premier League, Hughton’s Newcastle looked well placed to stay there after winning at Arsenal and recording thumping home victories over Sunderland and Aston Villa. But after a 5-1 defeat at Bolton Wanderers, he was shown the door.
“There isn’t a day that goes past when you don’t think, ‘Could I have done anything better? What were the reasons?’ because I don’t know,” he said.
“I reached all the targets that were set and surpassed them. We had an incredible season in the Championship, there was a feel-good factor in the club and once you get to that stage it makes it even more difficult. The only good thing for me is I can look back and for football reasons I hadn’t under-achieved.
“In any walk of life if there’s someone who doesn’t like you or want you, there isn’t too much you can do about it. It’s a horrible thing to happen to anybody.”
Hughton, in the final year of his contract and without an assistant manager after Colin Calderwood left to manage Hibernian, admitted there had been indications of the fate awaiting him.
“On the day it was very much a shock,” he said. “Once I walked into the office I knew. In hindsight, I’d had some difficulties – I hadn’t got a new contract, I’d lost my assistant and hadn’t been able to replace him. There were signs.”