MARTIN Jol's sudden resignation from Dutch giants Ajax last night has fuelled talk the Dutchman is set to replace Chris Hughton at St James' Park - as Sol Campell warned of a dressing room revolt in protest at the sacking.
Jol has hankered after a return to the Premier League since he was removed as manager of Tottenham Hotspur three years ago, and was extremely interested in taking the Fulham job in the summer before deciding to stay in Amsterdam.
But Jol has been disillusioned by the lack of financial flexibility at Ajax for months and, having turned down the Newcastle job when Sir Bobby Robson was sacked in equally controversial circumstances in 2004, he could well be in line to replace the man who was his assistant manager at White Hart Lane.
Whether that is enough to appease the players remains to be seen, with Campbell leading the outcry yesterday, and his Ajax exit could yet prove to be nothing more than a coincidence.
Sources close to Jol have indicated the 54-year-old is due to fly to England today to discuss taking on the United job, although that has not been confirmed by the club.
Campbell only turned down moves to Celtic and Sunderland in the summer because of Hughton’s presence and he has not adopted the usual stance of maintaining player silence following a managerial dismissal.
Alan Pardew – sacked as manager of League One Southampton back in August – was the early favourite to succeed Hughton, before Jol’s late emergence, but that came after the former England international has lashed out at the board.
Other names in the frame this morning are former Aston Villa and Leicester boss Martin O’Neill, former Magpies manager Joe Kinnear, who has fully recovered from his heart attack in 2009, and ex-Charlton boss Alan Curbishley.
All of the front-runners are out of work, although sources close to O’Neill have indicated the Northern Irishman is not looking to return to work until the New Year, while Jol’s sudden availability makes him an attractive proposition.
Another popular choice among fans would be Alan Shearer, although The Journal has been assured he has no intention of returning to St James’s Park while Mike Ashley remains in charge.
Campbell is furious about the way Hughton has been treated, with the club 11th in the table, four points clear of the bottom three.
He said: “Chris is a lovely guy. Top man. This will hit the players hard. The players admired him, and liked him, and won’t be happy now he’s gone like this.
“You have got to ask yourself why this has happened because 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 in the morning none of the players had a clue this was coming.
“But word started to spread that the bookies had stopped taking bets and the players started texting each other with the news. Yes, it has come as a shock, and it will affect the dressing room, there is no doubt about that.”
Hughton was summoned to St James’ Park after training yesterday morning as Ashley decided it was time to part company with the man who had guided the club back into the Premier League after a 3-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion.
A statement followed: “Newcastle United Football Club have today parted company with manager Chris Hughton. Goalkeeping coach Paul Barron also leaves the club.
“The board would like to place on record their thanks to Chris for his considerable efforts during the club’s transition from Championship to Premier League football.
“Chris has shown exceptional character and commitment since being appointed manager in October 2009. The club wishes him well for the future. Regrettably the board now feels an individual with more managerial experience is needed to take the club forward.”
Reserve team boss Peter Beardsley and Steve Stone take charge of first-team affairs and may be on the bench when Liverpool visit St James’s Park on Saturday.