Jol the surprise favourite for Magpies' hot-seat
MARTIN Jol has tonight emerged as a surprise favourite to replace Chris Hughton as manager of Newcastle United. Hughton was dismissed yesterday afternoon, less than 14 months after his appointment as permanent boss, with owner Mike Ashley claiming he needed a more experienced figure to take the club forward. Former Newcastle striker Peter Beardsley has taken temporary charge alongside fellow coach Steve Stone, and the pair are expected to oversee Saturdays home game with Liverpool. However, they will not be considered on a long-term basis, and most bookmakers were last night making Jol an odds-on shot to succeed Hughton on a permanent basis after he resigned from his position as boss of Ajax. Alan Pardew, Alan Curbishley and Martin O'Neill have also been mentioned, with former bosses Alan Shearer and Joe Kinnear linked with possible returns to St James' Park. But Ashley boasts personal links to Jol, and sources in Holland claim the former Tottenham boss would be keen to move to Tyneside. The 54-year-old left his post at the Amsterdam Arena late last night, despite only having taken over as boss of Ajax last May. He finished second in the Eredivisie last season - one point behind Steve McClarens FC Twente - but leaves Ajax struggling in fourth position in the Eredivisie. Tellingly, he was first mentioned as a possible Newcastle manager in 2008, and Ashley is understood to have held tentative discussions with him before eventually appointing Kevin Keegan. The pair first encountered each other when Jol was manager at Tottenham, with the Dutchman developing a close relationship with Paul Kemsley, who has subsequently assisted Ashley in an advisory capacity. Kemsley does not have a direct involvement with the Newcastle boardroom any more, but Ashley is known to speak to the Londoner on a regular basis. Jol spent three seasons in charge of Spurs between 2004 and 2007, stepping up from his previous position as coach to replace Jacques Santini. He guided the White Hart Lane club to a fifth-placed finish in 2006 - their highest for 16 years - and only missed out on a Champions League place on the final day of the season. Pardew would appear to be his leading rival for Ashley's affections, and the former Charlton, West Ham and Southampton boss was touted as a future Magpies manager when rumours about Hughton's position first started to circulate in October. Quite how Pardew's appointment would be received by the Newcastle fans is open to debate, however, with most supporters unhappy at yesterday's decision to dismiss Hughton. The former first-team coach first took temporary charge of the club when Keegan was dismissed at the start of the 2008-09 season, and stood in again when Kinnear suffered heart trouble later in the same campaign. He replaced Shearer following Newcastle's relegation in May 2009, but while he was finally appointed permanently last autumn, he was only offered an 18-month deal. He has grown increasingly disillusioned with Ashley's refusal to discuss a contract extension in recent weeks, and his position grew more vulnerable when the board dragged their feet over the appointment of a successor to former assistant boss Colin Calderwood. Nevertheless, yesterday's events were still a surprise, with Hughton, who took training in the morning, travelling to St James' shortly after lunch time to discover his fate. "I am immensely proud of my achievements with Newcastle," said Hughton, in a statement on the League Managers Association website. "I enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the players, my staff and the supporters during my time as manager. I now wish them and the club all the very best for the future. "We have built on last season's momentum following promotion back up to the Premier League and have produced some excellent results to see us sitting midway in the table at this stage of the season. "The termination of my contract is now in the hands of the LMA and I will therefore be making no further comment at this stage." Ashley's actions were widely criticised within the game, with Calderwood, who worked alongside Hughton for the best part of a year, leading the chorus of disapproval. "I was there and I know the regime he was working under," said the former Newcastle number two. "It makes it difficult. You want to know the parameters of the job, and if they keep changing, or you're not allowed to do what you think is feasible or logical, then it becomes very difficult to do your job as well as you can." Despite having no previous managerial experience, Beardsley will oversee training this week ahead of Saturdays televised encounter with Liverpool. The former England international will have to raise the morale of a squad that was not expecting Hughton's departure, with Sol Campbell's comments underlining the depth of frustration being felt by the playing staff. "It has come as a shock, and it will affect the dressing room there is no doubt about that," said Campbell. "The players are sure to be asking themselves, What the hell is going on, that is only natural." Team-mates Jonas Gutierrez and Danny Simpson also expressed their shock on the social networking website Twitter, with Gutierrez commenting: "Thank you Chris Hughton for believing in us when nobody believed in us."
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