Friday 23 February 2018

Why would Chris Hughton want Brian Kerr as his no 2?

David Kelly

David Kelly

Put simply, Chris Hughton needs an assistant after regular sidekick Colin Calderwood, his former Spurs coaching colleague, departed north to take up a managerial post with SPL side Hibernian last month.

Hughton and Calderwood were very successful together after Newcastle's traumatic relegation and they won the Championship last term with 30 wins and 102 points.

Despite this, Newcastle United and owner Mike Ashley, who have had difficulty escaping the delusions of grandeur which have made the club football's recurring laughing stock, have refused to grant Hughton a renegotiation of his current contract.

Also, they have completely disassociated themselves from the prospect of the current manager selecting his own assistant -- their preference would be to promote current youths boss and, more importantly, Tyneside folk hero, Peter Beardsley.

Ex-Chelsea assistant Steve Clarke's snubbing of Hughton's job offer last week weakened the former Ireland full-back's position; however, Sunday's demolition derby has tilted the argument back in his favour.

Newcastle fans chanted his name in unison on Sunday and, maintaining his typically guarded public persona, Hughton's poise ensures that, crucially for any Newcastle manager, the supporters are currently on his side.

So why Kerr?

Hughton, then a long-standing and respected member of the Spurs coaching staff, was a personal choice of Kerr when the Dubliner went for the Irish international job after Mick McCarthy's resignation in late 2002.

The pair toiled together over the course of nearly two full campaigns of major championship qualification and have remained close friends since their partnership ended five years ago.

The duo dovetailed with the Irish national team during the abortive Euro 2004 qualification campaign and the 2006 World Cup bid.

Both ended in failure, though they had little chance of recouping the lost ground for the Euro 2004 qualification, after McCarthy's opening two defeats in the campaign left Ireland in a virtually hopeless situation.

The subsequent World Cup campaign represented bitter disappointment for the duo, who led the team to fourth, undermined by a recurring failure to convert draws into wins; notably in a home game against Israel where the side tossed away a two-goal advantage.

At youths level, Kerr led Ireland to their only trophy triumphs -- a pair of European Championships at U-16 and U-18 level -- while also winning a World Cup bronze medal with the U-20s.

Is Kerr not working now?

Currently, Kerr is manager of the Faroe Islands, a thankless task but one which has recently propelled him into the limelight -- especially the all-important limelight shone by the British media -- by taking a point from Northern Ireland in last month's Euro 2012 qualifier. Although he enjoys the tranquillity of the Faroe Islands and the responsibility for transforming the country's non-existent youth structures, Kerr is angling for a return to the big time.

Regular media appearances have maintained his profile and he is a common attendee at English grounds -- he was at Arsenal v West Ham United for media duties last weekend.

Managing Northern Ireland might be a thinly veiled ambition -- his father Frankie hailed from Belfast and it is a job that would greatly appeal. However, the lure of the Premier League would be difficult to ignore.

Any obstacles?

The most famous Brian Kerr in the north-east of England is the full-back of the same name who plied his trade at St James' Park at the start of the last decade.

Newcastle fans crave the glamour of a big name -- hence Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullit, Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer. All of those reigns failed to live up to expectations.

Even Bobby Robson's mostly successful time in charge ended in ignominy as he was sacked despite leading the club to their healthiest league position for a century.

Lesser lights -- Sam Allardyce, Glenn Roeder -- have failed to satisfy the supporters' often unquenchable thirst for style over substance.

Hughton is seeking to buck that trend and his tussle with owner Mike Ashley and chief executive Derek Llambias will offer a clear signal as to whether the club can bin its erstwhile insular approach.

What would Brian Kerr bring to the Premier League?

Kerr's record of dealing with established senior players is mixed. Robbie Keane flagrantly abused the manager's trust when being pictured on a late-night Dublin bender before a crucial qualification match.

Richard Dunne bemoaned the fact that Kerr insisted on the players undergoing regular hospital visits while the overall picture of his management gleaned subsequently was of an austere atmosphere devoid of fun.

However, under Hughton, Kerr's responsibility over the players would not be so extensive and the current manager has already demonstrated that he can handle such abrasive characters as recidivist offenders Joey Barton and Andy Carroll.

Last year, Hughton dropped Barton before extracting a rare apology out of the controversial midfielder following an early season training ground altercation.

It is no coincidence that, even within the prism of the selfish footballer looking after No 1, Barton has been the chief supporter of Hughton. The manager has also previous in terms of disciplining the erratic Carroll without reducing his influence on the field.

What's the money like?

The ex-Chelsea and West Ham assistant Clarke used to get paid a cool £1m to stand in the shadows -- it is believed the real reason he snubbed Hughton's offer was because of the pitiful salary on offer.

One of the lowest-paid top-flight managers, if not the lowest paid, Hughton is only on £500,000 per year -- slightly less than what drops into Wayne Rooney's bank account every fortnight. Hence his urgent need to ensure that he can secure a contract to tether him against the omnipresent chaos that is ever-threatening in the north-east.

Kerr, who only earned about €350,000 with Ireland and much less with the Faroes, would not be interested in the financial implications, though Hughton would endeavour to get the best deal possible for his assistant, especially if his own contract talks accelerate.

Irish Independent

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