Sport Soccer

Saturday 24 March 2018

O'Neill could be next in hotseat but may have to sell Carroll

Sam Wallace

the next Newcastle manager will be expected to accept that the club could sell highly-rated centre-forward Andy Carroll, as the board faced a dressing-room revolt over their decision to sack Chris Hughton yesterday.

Whoever succeeds Hughton is likely to be told that the club will listen to offers for Carroll, who has been identified by Tottenham, among others, as a potential transfer target.

The 21-year-old, who has nine league goals already this season, is the club's one major saleable asset with a transfer value in excess of £15m. Carroll had a very close relationship with Hughton and the player is understood to be as shocked as many Newcastle fans were yesterday at the decision to dismiss the manager who brought the club back up from the Championship last season.

The preferred choice for the Newcastle board to succeed Hughton is Martin O'Neill, although the club are aware that it will be a tough sell for the 58-year-old to take the job.

There was widespread dismay among fans' groups that Alan Pardew (49), whose most recent job was at Southampton, was the bookmakers' favourite. Martin Jol also moved into the frame after the Dutchman's abrupt departure from Ajax by mutual consent last night.

Jol had been under increasing pressure in the Netherlands with his team already out of the Champions League, and slipping to fourth in the Eredivisie at the weekend.

Hughton's departure did not come as a surprise to many around the club who have witnessed the steady erosion of his authority.

He had been denied a new contract -- his deal had been due to expire in the summer -- and had not been given authority to appoint a new No 2 since the departure of Colin Calderwood in the summer.

The club have also dismissed the goalkeeping coach Paul Barron, who was regarded as close to Hughton. It is thought that both were told of the decision over the telephone. In a statement released yesterday, the only hint to the board's thinking was their stipulation that they wanted a successor with "more managerial experience".

The feeling within the club was that owner Mike Ashley and his chairman Derek Llambias believed that Hughton -- described by Campbell yesterday as a "lovely guy" -- allowed himself to be dictated to by senior players.

They regard O'Neill as the kind of character capable of taking on what is regarded as a strong Newcastle dressing-room. O'Neill's background as a boyhood Sunderland supporter, however, means that his appointment would not be without difficulties.

Yet giving the job to fall-back option Pardew is likely to provoke an even stronger reaction among supporters who feel that the club's hierarchy is completely out of touch with the feelings of the fans.

Former Newcastle captain Alan Shearer, also briefly the manager at the end of the 2008-09 season, said yesterday of Hughton's dismissal: "It's not good, not good news."

Shearer also said that he would be interested in the job although, given how his relationship with Ashley ended, that would seem unlikely.

"Despite what happened (at Newcastle) I loved it and if something was to arise again I would seriously look at it," Shearer said.

Hughton himself said: "I'm immensely proud of my achievements with Newcastle. The termination of my contract is now in the hands of the League Managers Association and I will therefore be making no further comment at this stage."(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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