MIKE ASHLEY has struck again. Just when Newcastle United appeared to be ticking along nicely, the club's unpredictable owner decided to change things again.

Chris Hughton didn't deserve the sack, he didn't deserve to be treated in the way he was and there should not be a single Newcastle fan out there who would disagree.

The situation is such, though, that he was. Ashley, clearly, can do what he likes, even if his decisions repeatedly infuriate the supporters that make the club what it is.

At this point, before going head first in to a barrage of abuse from those fans, I should point out that my belief is that Hughton should still be in a job.

Even if he was destined to fail this season, which personally I don't think he was, he should have been given one full season in the Premier League to deliver what had been targeted. Survival.

There might have only been four points separating Newcastle from the bottom three when Hughton departed, but performances this season have been better than many expected.

Ashley must, though, have a plan - whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen. There is no way a successful businessman can take such a drastic step without having something in mind.

Martin Jol and Alan Pardew appear to be in that plan. Whether one is a) and the other is b) only time will tell. Either way, Ashley will know he now has to make an appointment backed up by further action.

To end Hughton's reign, he has basically shown that he wants to take Newcastle further forward. Otherwise sticking with a manager always happy to toe the party line would have been the better option.

Pardew would, on the face of it, appear to have nothing more to offer than Hughton and that would be reflected by the supporters' reactions should he be appointed.

Installing Jol, on the other hand, would lead to a pretty quick dampening of the anger currently playing out around Tyneside following the departure of Hughton.

But the former Tottenham manager would be reluctant to take over at St James' Park if he had to work under similar conditions to that which his former No 2 at White Hart Lane has been used to.

Bringing a name like Jol in would require squad investment. Any manager with such a reputation across Europe would deserve and demand room to make plenty of adjustments to his playing staff in January and beyond.

Will Ashley provide that? Only he truly knows, but given how it was only in the summer that the club issued a statement stating there would be "no capital outlay" on new players, that would represent some turnaround.

After treating Hughton so badly for reviving a club destined for struggle in the Championship not too long ago, there is no way Ashley can make a wrong move now.

If he does, Newcastle could soon find themselves dropping back in to the Championship again. If he can attract a manager the fans like, perhaps the sympathy shown towards Hughton will quickly wane.