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Big Sam to Brucey: Rating every Newcastle manager of the Mike Ashley era

Mike Ashley’s ownership of Newcastle United is officially over following the confirmation of the club’s takeover this week, bringing an end to an era of much disappointment and frustration for the fans.

Once the Premier League’s most entertaining side for much of the first decade of the division, Ashley’s 14-year reign as owner has consisted of uninspiring football and two of the club’s six relegations from the top-tier.

Ashley, in essence, killed hope.

Elusive silverware seemed further away than ever during the Ashley era and the new owners – whilst undeniably arriving with more than just a cloud of concern and controversy – have the resources to provide much-needed funds on an extraordinary scale.


Huge changes are anticipated with manager Steve Bruce’s position under threat, and following the club’s takeover, we’ve decided to rate every Newcastle manager of the Mike Ashley era.

Sam Allardyce

Having worked wonders during an eight-year spell at Bolton that included UEFA Cup qualification, Allardyce was appointed at Newcastle just days before Ashley’s takeover and soon splashed the new owner’s cash on signings including Joey Barton and Alan Smith.

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Allardyce’s overachievement at Bolton was not replicated at St James’ Park and his style of football made the manager an unpopular appointment, this reign lasting just 24 games – winning eight – before being dismissed in January of his first season in charge.

Rating: 4/10

Nigel Pearson

First-team coach Nigel Pearson was handed the reigns on an interim basis, losing his first fixture 6-0 at Manchester United as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick, before an FA Cup win over Stoke.

He spent just two fixtures in charge before a permanent replacement for Allardyce was appointed.

Rating: 2/10

Kevin Keegan

Ashley reappointed fan favourite Kevin Keegan in January 2008 as he sought to breathe optimism into his Newcastle project, with the former manager having overseen the club’s title challenges during the nineties.

Keegan’s second stint initially began with an eight-game winless run, but an upturn in fortunes – spearheaded by an attacking trident of Obafembi Martins, Mark Viduka and Michael Owen – moved the Magpies clear of relegation worries.

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Relations soon soured however, with Keegan undermined by the bizarre presence of Dennis Wise as Director of Football and he resigned in September 2008 after citing frustrations and differences with the ownership.

Rating: 5/10

Joe Kinnear

The 2008/09 season saw Newcastle make a real sh*tshow of their operation as the Ashley era reached almost peak levels of chaos, the appointment of Joe Kinnear a truly baffling one.

Kinnear had not worked in the Premier League for nine years and had been out of employment entirely for four, but was called upon to help save a sinking ship after linking up with fellow Wimbledon alumni Wise at St James’ Park.

He won just five of his 26 matches in charge before heart problems saw him step down from the role in February 2009, but not before a foul-mouthed rant at a press conference and the upsetting of winger Charles N’Zogbia – referring to the star as Charles ‘Insomnia’ – a situation which contributed to the player’s departure to Wigan.

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Somewhat absurdly, he returned to the club in 2013 as director of football, a time which included an interview with talkSport in which Kinnear made several factually incorrect claims, including that he had won the LMA Manager of the Year award three times.

Rating: 1/10

Alan Shearer

Newcastle’s favourite son was thrust into a first managerial position as caretaker boss, in a desperate bid to stop the Magpies from sliding towards relegation.

The bid failed, the club legend winning just one of his eight fixtures as Newcastle headed towards the Championship.

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Shearer was keen on overseeing the club’s rebuild, but his plans were ignored by Ashley who instead headed in another direction, later alienating the Magpies’ record goalscorer – and fans – after renaming the popular Shearer’s Bar behind the Gallowgate End.

Rating: 3/10

Chris Hughton

Having initially been appointed as part of Keegan’s coaching staff, Hughton was given an opportunity as manager following the decision not to retain caretaker boss Shearer.

Initially on an interim basis before winning a permanent deal, Hughton oversaw Newcastle’s instant return to the Premier League after winning the Championship with 102 points.

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Newcastle started the 2010/11 season in positive fashion – including a 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa – but a run of five games without a win saw Ashley press the panic button and somewhat harshly dismiss Hughton, despite the Magpies sitting 11th in the division.

Rating: 7/10

Alan Pardew

Alan Pardew became the club’s sixth manager in just three years after arriving in December 2010, beating Liverpool in his first fixture as he sought to win over a fanbase underwhelmed by his appointment.

Pardew guided Newcastle to a 12th-place finish, before his first full season saw huge progress as a side fired by the goals of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse competed for Champions League qualification before finishing fifth.

Pardew was named as the Premier League’s Manager of the Season and his reward was a staggering eight-year contract, but hopes of a successful era soon evaporated as Newcastle regressed.

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Disagreements with chief scout Graham Carr and a lack of investment hindered Pardew, whilst the pressure of the position affected his later spell – including that shocking head-butt on Hull midfielder David Meyler.

Rating: 6/10

John Carver

Another interim appointment, John Carver memorably claimed he was ‘the best coach in the Premier League‘ despite leading Newcastle to three wins from 20 fixtures across all competitions.

His reign included a run of eight straight defeats as the Magpies narrowly avoided relegation in 2014/15.

Rating: 1/10

Steve McClaren

McClaren’s reign was one that failed right from the start, the former England boss failing to extract the most from a squad that had recruited talented names such as Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandr Mitrovic over the summer.

He failed to win any of his opening eight league fixtures before back-to-back wins over Liverpool and Tottenham earned him a stay of execution before the new year, though his inevitable dismissal came too late to save Newcastle from relegation with their fate all but sealed following just seven wins from 31 fixtures.

Rating: 2/10

Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez was unable to save Newcastle from relegation, but remained on Tyneside to lead the club back into the Premier League at the first attempt.

Benitez’s arrival was viewed as a coup given his pedigree in winning major trophies and so it proved, with the Spaniard ensuring a Newcastle squad lacking investment consolidated themselves back in the Premier League.

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He became a popular figure given his understanding of the city and the fans, whilst his public calling out of the ownership only won him further admirers amongst the Magpies’ support.

However, his disagreements with the board ultimately led to his departure for China as Newcastle allowed a leading coach to slip through their grasp.

Rating: 8/10

Steve Bruce

Far from a popular appointment upon his arrival, Bruce is staring down the barrel at Newcastle following the club’s change in ownership.

Brought in as a ‘safe pair of hands’ following the departure of Benitez, the former Sunderland boss has overseen some torrid and uninspiring football for much of his tenure at St James’ Park.

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Bruce finished 13th in his first season before guiding Newcastle to 12th last term, but a late-season surge papered over the cracks of a campaign in which the club flirted with relegation.

Without a win in seven games at present, few are expecting him to last much longer as a new ownership look to take the club in a new direction.

Rating: 4/10

Read – Unforgettable Debuts: Jurgen Klinsmann, from pantomime villain to terrace hero

Read Also – Golazo Merchants: The Boss of Bosses, Alan Shearer

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