Thursday, December 9, 2010
Having restored stability to a club many believed to be in freefall and taken them back to the Premier League, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley decided to sack Chris Hughton with the club sitting comfortably in mid-table after 16 games.
Hughton is not the first manager to have been on the wrong end of a harsh dismissal, though. ESPNsoccernet selects a First XI.
Mervyn Day (Carlisle, 1996-97)
After his bid to buy Manchester United in 1989 fell through, former United director Michael Knighton lowered his sights and, in 1992, bought Carlisle United, then floundering at the foot of the football league.
He said he would return the club to the top-flight and ensure they became "more wealthy than Manchester United in ten years' time". He was widely mocked, including by the manager he inherited, Aidan McCaffery, whom he dismissed within weeks of his arrival.
Day, after a spell as assistant to Mick Wadsworth, became manager for the 1996-97 season and steered the club to Division Two as well as winning the Auto Windscreens Shield. Six games into the new season, though, Knighton dismissed Day - "purely for footballing reasons" - before taking charge himself. "I never did believe in managers," he revealed.
Knighton, who said during this time that he had seen a UFO, enjoyed some initial success before overseeing their relegation. He stepped down as manager and, increasingly unpopular among fans, sold the club in 2002.
Jupp Heynckes (Real Madrid, 1997-98)
A two-time Bundesliga winner with Bayern Munich and boasting several years' experience in Spain, Heynckes arrived at Madrid in 1997 to replace Fabio Capello, who had just led the club to the title.
Heynckes led the club to Champions League glory, ending a 32-year wait after the 1966 European Cup success, but they finished 11 points behind Barcelona in the league. Eight days after their triumph over Juventus, the club's demanding president, Lorenzo Sanz, confirmed he was terminating Heynckes' contract.
"If we did not win the European Cup," Sanz explained, "this would have been one of the worst seasons in recent years."
Luigi Del Neri (Empoli, 1998, and Porto, 2004)
Juventus boss Del Neri has twice been dismissed at clubs before taking charge of a competitive match.
At Empoli in 1998, his "incompatibility" with president Fabrizio Corsi was evident from the off. Luciano Spalletti had taken the side from Serie C1 to Serie A during his three-year tenure, and Corsi, it appeared, wanted Del Neri simply to copy everything his predecessor had done, right down to his 3-4-3 formation. "They wanted a clone of Spalletti," Del Neri complained.
His task at Porto in 2004 was even more daunting: following Jose Mourinho's Champions League-winning season. He signed a three-year contract in June but was sacked in August, again before the league had commenced, after the board held an emergency meeting. The club statement cited "private reasons".
Reports suggested he had failed to attend training sessions, but Del Neri said punctuality was important to him and he was "reading things that aren't true".
He added: "I've tried to come up with a theory, a valid reason for my dismissal, but I still can't find one."
Vicente Del Bosque (Real Madrid, 1999-2003)
The Madrid pressure cooker has put paid to a substantial number of successful managers, but Del Bosque is perhaps the most unfortunate.
Despite having limited managerial experience prior to his full-time appointment, he managed to keep a burgeoning collection of Galacticos happy and won two league titles, two Champions Leagues, one European Super Cup and one Intercontinental Cup.
In 2003, after the second league title, Florentino Perez decided Del Bosque lacked the sexy profile he required and tried to move him upstairs. Carlos Queiroz came in as his replacement.
"Del Bosque's profile is a traditional one," Perez said. "We believe that the squad we are building would be more powerful with a coach with a different character."
Del Bosque was unimpressed with the explanation: "That was one of the evil deeds that have hurt me the most, though I don't know whether it came from the president himself or from the court that surrounded him."
He was not the last to be harshly treated by the club, as Fabio Capello, whose second tenure also ended with the title, Bernd Schuster and Manuel Pellegrini may attest.
Sir Bobby Robson (Newcastle, 1999-2004)
Before Hughton, there was Robson. Taking charge at Newcastle in 1999 after a glittering managerial career that took in spells with PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and England, he turned the club into Champions League regulars and brought stability to the club.
Due to his advancing years, he was expected to leave at the end of the 2003-04 season but, needing "the daily injection of adrenaline that football gives me", he asked for one more year.
His request was granted, Freddy Shepherd extending his contract for the 2004-05 campaign, but after just four games and amid rumours of dressing-room discord, he was dismissed. It was, Shepherd said, a "disappointing start".
Robson wished his replacement "tremendous success" with what he felt was Newcastle's "best squad ... for many, many years", but they proceeded to go through a succession of managers - Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder, Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear and Alan Shearer - without rediscovering a sense of stability.
Leroy Rosenior (Torquay, 2007)
Rosenior is believed to have had the shortest ever stint as manager of a professional club. He returned to Torquay in 2007, having spent close to four years at Plainmoor from 2002 to 2006.
"I'm not promising overnight success," he said after being named the new manager.
He would not have the chance to become an overnight success. Ten minutes after his appointment, it emerged chairman Mike Bateson had sold a 51% stake to a consortium. The consortium did not want Rosenior in charge.
"He didn't envisage selling the club in the near future, so I did the press conference on Thursday, I did all the interviews and, within ten minutes, Mike called me to let me know he had actually sold the club," he said.
"I've been told that a new consortium is coming in, they're bringing their own people and I won't have anything to do with it."
Jose Mourinho (Chelsea, 2004-07)
After leading Chelsea to their first league title in half a century and breaking up Manchester United and Arsenal's dominance the English top-flight, Mourinho left by 'mutual consent' in September 2007.
Speculation over his future had arisen during the previous season - "Jose's got a contract until 2010 and we're not going to sack him," chief executive Peter Kenyon had said - but he was believed to have had disagreements with Roman Abramovich over transfers and the team's playing style.
A 1-1 draw at home to Rosenborg in the Champions League in front of just 24,973 eventually persuaded Abramovich to pull the trigger, with reports claiming he had learned of his fate via a BlackBerry message. A subsequent Chelsea statement recognised Mourinho as "the most successful manager the club has known".
Martin Jol (Tottenham, 2004-07)
The man who led Tottenham to within a few dodgy stomachs of the Champions League was dismissed early in the 2007-08 season. Spurs had looked certain to secure fourth in 2005-06, needing only to beat mid-table West Ham on the final day, before illness - for a time blamed on hotel lasagne - ruined their chances. They finished fifth again in 2006-07.
Chairman Daniel Levy pledged "100% support" to Jol after Spurs lost the opening two games of the season, but their mediocre form continued and Juande Ramos accepted the club's "dizzying offer". They finished 11th that season and, after Ramos oversaw their worst-ever start to a league campaign in 2008-09, he was on his way, too.
Steve King (Lewes, 2001-08)
A true victim of his own success, King was dismissed by Lewes after guiding the club to the Conference National.
King had taken the minnows from the Isthmian League to the heady heights of the Conference South. In 2004-05 and 2005-06, they earned a place in the play-offs but were unable to partake as their ground did not come up to the required standard.
In April 2008, though, redevelopment work on The Dripping Pan stadium elevated it to 'B' grade status and Lewes finished top of the table. For the first time in their history, Lewes would play in the Conference National.
On the final day of the promotion-winning season, though, the club announced that King's contract would not be renewed because of the cost of remaining in English football's fifth tier.
"One thing I think is important is that at no time has Steve King been asked to get us promotion," director Kevin Powell told the Sussex Express. "He's created the problem, if you like - and I don't mean this in a negative way - because he's been so successful."
The cost of the further ground development as well as the players' wages put paid to both King and all but one of his squad. Only one player, Anthony Barness, remained, and Lewes appointed Kevin Keehan - previously the commercial director at Brighton - as the new boss.
They finished bottom of the Conference National, some 21 points behind 23rd-placed Weymouth, and are now happily battling relegation in the Conference South.
Cosmin Olaroiu (Al-Hilal, 2007-09)
Former Steaua Bucharest coach Olaroiu enjoyed huge success upon arriving in Saudi Arabia, winning both the league title and the highly-prized Crown Prince Cup in 2008. In 2009, though, further success, and a failure to appreciate the customs of his new home, led to his dismissal.
A 1-0 win over Al-Shabab saw Al-Hilal - also on course to retain the league - clinch the Crown Prince Cup, but Olaroiu was incensed that the entire team was not invited up to the podium to celebrate the trophy.
Showing his anger, he threw down his shirt, featuring an image of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, in the direction of the Crown Prince's representative for the match.
Al-Hilal announced that Olaroiu had been fired, while the Saudi federation decreed that he never be allowed to coach in the country again. He has since turned up in Qatar with Al-Sadd.
Mario Beretta and Pavlos Dermitzakis (PAOK, 2010)
Appointed in June, sacked by July, former Parma and Torino coach Beretta's first foreign excursion this summer ended almost as soon as it had begun after his training methods and pre-season results - as well as a reported clash with midfield enforcer Pablo Garcia - failed to convince president Theodoros Zagorakis.
In came Pavlos Dermitzakis, Otto Rehhagel's old assistant, for the Champions League qualifier against Ajax, which they lost on away goals. After a disappointing start to the Greek Super League season, Dermitzakis was sacked in October.