The reaction to speculation that Patrick Vieira formed part of a four-man shortlist of candidates to manage Newcastle in 2015/16 was near-universal: why would someone consider leaving a cushy job at Manchester City to take on such a challenging task?
The popular opinion seems to be that the Magpies are so unstable that taking on a role at St James’ Park means placing your career in severe jeopardy, but the statistics don’t really bear that out.
With the exception of guys who were approaching retirement age such as Kevin Keegan and Joe Kinnear or lucked into the position with no prior experience like Alan Shearer, everyone who has taken a turn as Newcastle manager under Mike Ashley has continued to work at a high level.
Indeed two – Chris Hughton and Alan Pardew – received better opportunities as a result of accepting a spot on Ashley’s payroll than they would have done had they declined the chance.
Hughton had never led a club permanently before being put in charge in the Championship in 2009/10, but a 102-point second-tier title campaign and a competitive return to the Premier League boosted his reputation sufficiently for 12th-placed Norwich to hire him after he was ditched.
Pardew’s recovery was even more remarkable. He was sacked by League One side Southampton a few months before being named Hughton’s successor, reportedly due to a past relationship with Ashley and then-managing director Derek Llambias. Seventeen months later, he narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification.
Ashley stood by him when fans began to turn last year, resisting the prospect of getting rid without compensation when he headbutted David Meyler. Pardew eventually found another top-flight home at Crystal Palace in January, and they have been the sixth-best team in the division since his arrival.
Sam Allardyce was back in Premier League employment within a year of his underwhelming stint on Tyneside, and even an Ashley caretaker in Nigel Pearson has since worked his way up to full-time top-tier management at Leicester.
If anything, Newcastle is the perfect place to start out because you are instantly forced to adapt to circumstances that any will-be elite coach requires experience of at some stage: challenging chairman, passionate fans, off-field complications and the need to cultivate a siege mentality.
Should you get it horribly wrong, nobody will blame you unless you make a mess of media matters like John Carver, as evidenced by the enduring perception that Magpies supporters should be kicking themselves for hounding out Pardew, or the sympathy afforded to Allardyce following his dismissal.
Back to Vieira, recent reports have suggested that he is no longer under consideration, yet he remains 6/1 second favourite to be their boss on the opening day of 2015/16 on the Betfair Sportsbook, behind 1/5 frontrunner Steve McClaren.
Despite Ashley’s trophy-winning plans, they are seventh favourites to be relegated at [5.8].