It is less than a month since the Halloween slaughter of the folks from the Village of the Damned. Even less since we turned over Arsenal at The Emirates. How circumstances can change quickly in football.
After the sunderland game there was a clamour from many fans of NUFC to get Chris Hughton tied up to a long term contract ASAP. After the Arsenal game more people joined in on that show of support and some areas of the national press piled in behind the likeable English/ Irish/ Ghanaian.
Then came a run of 3 games in 10 days that yielded only 1 point and all of a sudden we have a few callers to the regular local radio football phone in's suggesting that a 'more experienced' manager would be preferable. Yes, these voices are (quite rightly) in the minority but there was an obvious increase after the thrashing we received at Bolton.
A few cracks have been exposed in and around the football club in recent weeks - most notably in terms of player discipline on and off the field.
Off the field we had Andy Carroll's court case and then his car being torched on the drive of Kevin Nolan (if you have been on Mars for a while the fact that Andy is living at Nolan's as part of his bail conditions may have passed you by.) Then there was the disgraceful non-story published by one of the Sunday nationals.
On the field the players discipline has been even worse. First off Joey Barton received a 3 match ban for 'punching' Pedersen when we played Blackburn. Pedersen went down as if Iron Mike Tyson had caught him off guard, but it was stupid from Barton and he has been a big miss. Then Tiote collected his 5th booking picking up a ban - a booking for Tiote is almost as inevitable as us conceding. At Bolton on Saturday Colo was sent off for an elbow aimed at Elmander and will also miss 3 games. After the match Mike Williamson was also charged with an off the ball incident again with Elmander, and he will also miss 3. That is 10 games of suspension amongst some of our key players within a matter of weeks - this is not acceptable.
It is also hugely frustrating that Nigel de Jong walked away without punishment after smashing HBA's leg. And didn't Fellaini hit Williamson when we beat Everton at Goodison? Did he get 3 games? No, of course he didn't. Football's ridiculous rules made sure of that. These inconsistencies are spoiling football.
The result at Bolton is also unacceptable. I am not saying that we should be heading to the Reebok and strolling away with 3 points, but 1 v 5? Bolton did not even play particularly well - nowhere near as well as they did when they beat Spurs recently and that brings me on to another issue of the moment, basic errors.
We are gifting teams goals - see Tiote's ridiculous dribbling in his own box v Blackburn or Williamson's pathetic attempted shoulder challenge before Roberts goal in the same game. At Bolton we gave away 2 penalties, 1 harsh and 1 stupid. Jose continued his 'why take 1 touch when you can take 30?' routine and Colo continues to take mad risks in his own third.
In the past few games Coloccini looks more like the player that he was in the relegation season. He has been weak, slow to react and far too easy to wind up. This is disappointing as for the majority of this season he has been one of our best players. Let us hope it is a temporary blip - he now has 3 games to go away and think about it.
This leads me on to yet another issue that I have with Hughton of late. Why is he so reluctant to take poorly performing players out of the starting line-up? Perch played a few games too many before injury and the return of Danny Simpson saw him dropped. Williamson and Coloccini have looked very poor lately and despite having Campbell and S. Taylor waiting in the wings they have played week in, week out and it has taken this suspension to see the defence shaken up. Other peculiar team selections include drafting in Lovenkrands to play against Blackburn whilst continuing to ignore Ranger. Guthrie on the right has also been an experiment that failed.
Our reliance on the Joey Barton diagonal ball has been badly exposed and Guthrie has demonstrated that he does not have those same attributes. To be fair to Guthrie though he is not a wide player. I am not really sure what he is! Against Fulham he was awful out right and it was bemusing as to why it took so long to get Routledge on to the park to go up against the out of position Damien Duff.
However, and this is my main point, let's get all of the above into perspective.
Chris Hughton is absolutely the right man for the job. At the start of this season most people who contacted me on here about realistic expectations said that they would be more than happy with 15th come May. We are presently in the top half of the Premier League having pulled off some great results - so what has changed people's expectations?
All of the above will help Chris to develop as a coach. He is a novice manager and his achievements as a novice have been incredible. Some people overlook the fact that we were seen by many 'experts' as likely to 'do a Leeds' when we hit the Championship. Quite the opposite.
He achieved this all on a shoestring budget, his most expensive signing being the excellent Cheik Tiote - he came in at about Â£10m less than Bruce spent on Gyan alone.
The question that I ask the people (on Twitter/ Facebook/ Soccernet or in the pub) is who would you want to replace him? Would you trust Ashley to make the right decision? Joe Kinnear? I think not.
Stick with Chris and give him a contract. And lets beat Chelsea on Sunday (if it stops snowing!)
Follow me on Twitter @MarcSDuffy