What is it about our football club? At the start of the season the overwhelming consensus amongst the fans was that they would be happy if we finished 15th and stayed up. Most saw the Carling Cup as an unwanted distraction and many were not bothered whether we lost to Accy Stanley in round 2.
A few months later and we are sitting in 9th place in the Prem and reached the last 16 of the cup - and all of a sudden there are 'supporters' phoning national radio stations and questioning whether Hughton is the right man for the job! Incredible! Only days before the biggest game of our season too.
A week ago I asked the question on Twitter - would you give Hughton a new contract? (his present deal, supposedly one of the lowest paid in the league, expires at the end of this season). The reason that I asked this question was because there were strong rumours circulating that defeat at West Ham the following Saturday would see Alan Pardew or (God forbid) Joe Kinnear installed as boss and Hughton sacked. A local journalist for a national newspaper (an alleged Newcastle fan) even wrote an article saying that Kinnear was coming back and then retracted it less than 24 hours later.
The response was mixed. Several did not want to criticise him but were not keen on a renewal. "He is a number two" and "He is not big enough for the job" were amongst the comments.
A couple suggested that we should replace him with Martin Jol. I am sure Jol, currently managing one of the biggest clubs in European history and featuring in the Champions League, would drop it all in a flash to come and work for Mike Ashley with a couple of quid here and there to spend.
We were excellent at Upton Park and I hoped that the win would take the pressure away from Hughton. Not so. Four days later and several of the major Bookies stopped taking bets on Hughton being the next EPL manager sacked following a large influx of bets. Surely the club should have ended this ridiculous suggestion there and then, but no. A very woolly press release was aired:
"Chris is our manager and will remain our manager," read the statement. "It's our intention to renegotiate his contract at the end of the year."
Strong stuff eh? Perhaps Ashley and his cronies believe that a manager on a short term contract will perform better than a manager with a couple of years on his deal and a bit more comfort to work in? Joe Kinnear anyone? A relegation battle and not knowing whether he would have a job from one game to the next had to be a major factor in Kinnear suffering a heart attack before we played at West Brom in the relegation season.
What more could Hughton have done to date in his job? Yes, we should have seen better results/ performances vs Blackpool, Stoke and Wigan (if we had taken 7 of the 9 points from these games we would now be in 2nd place), but we also hammered Villa and took 7 points at Goodison, Molineaux and Upton Park and were unlucky not to take all 9. I am happy to be in the top half of the table.
At the start of last season many of our fans (and media) predicted a season of struggle ahead after the turmoil within the club and the players we had lost over the previous 8 months. Many also predicted that Boro would win promotion. Hughton lead us to 102 points, a +55 goal difference and we won the title at a canter. I did not hear one single fan predict that would happen in the summer before the season began. This was achieved with only a couple of million spent - less than the money we received for Damien Duff alone.
Hughton's performance is even more impressive when you consider how little he also had to spend in the summer. Tiote came in as our most expensive signing at around Â£4million - money VERY well spent if you ask me. He spent less than half of what the mackems did on a single player who warms their bench, yet we lie within a point of them in the table going into the derby. Unfortunately he also signed James Perch though at Â£1million he is certainly not one of the big money failures that we have seen in the past.
One criticism that I do have of Hughton is what I perceive to be stubbornness. Why stick with Perch for so long when he was obviously out of his depth and we had another option? Why did it take until 70 minutes in to the Wigan game to realise that his home strategy was not working and had not worked in the 2 home games before that? But then he is a new manager learning his trade - these things will help him to grow.
People are calling for a "more experienced" manager. Like who? Martin Jol? He would never come. Would you trust Ashley to get it right? His idea of an experienced manager last time out was Kinnear..... I certainly wouldn't trust him. And who of any note would want to come and work for Ashley in the first place given his track record and pay scale. We cant even attract Steve Clarke to the club with the salary on offer if you believe what you read. I have also heard a few suggest that we could bring in a manager and Hughton could revert back to being our #2. As if that could ever work.
I say give him a 2 or 3 year contract now.
If you disagree, who would you want to replace him?
Follow me on Twitter @MarcSDuffy