Sol Campbell has condemned Newcastle's sacking of manager Chris Hughton and claimed the players will be asking: "What the hell is going on?"
The Magpies terminated Hughton's contract, saying they needed "someone with more experience", and reserve-team coach Peter Beardsley has been put in charge of the team on a temporary basis. United are 11th in the Premier League and have achieved some notable wins under the guidance of Hughton, who had taken the club back into the top flight at the first attempt.
The announcement was met with bafflement by veteran Newcastle defender Campbell, who told ESPN Soccernet: "This will hit the players hard. The players admired him and liked him and won't be happy now he's gone like this."
He added: "It makes no sense. Here is a guy who has done an unbelievable job. He got the club back into the Premier League and any manager would have been rewarded for that with a new contract, but Chris wasn't.
"The players are sure to be asking themselves, 'What the hell is going on?', that is only natural. When we left training this morning none of the players had a clue this was coming. Yes, it has come as a shock, and it will affect the dressing room there is no doubt about that."
The manner of Sunday's limp 3-1 defeat to West Brom, after which Hughton berated the players for an hour, looked to have been the final straw however.
Newcastle said in a statement: "The board would like to place on record their thanks to Chris for his considerable efforts during the club's transition from Championship to Premier League football. Chris has shown exceptional character and commitment since being appointed manager in October 2009.
"The club wishes him well for the future. Regrettably the board now feels that an individual with more managerial experience is needed to take the club forward. The task of appointing a new manager now begins. An announcement will be made shortly regarding transitional arrangements pending the appointment of a successor."
Beardsley, the former Newcastle and England striker, will be assisted by Steve Stone.
Martin O'Neill plus three Alans - Curbishley, Pardew and Shearer - are among the bookies' favourites along with Bolton boss Owen Coyle.
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