Newcastle United captain Kevin Nolan says the squad were "shocked" and "upset" to learn that Chris Hughton had been sacked and has praised the outgoing manager for his contribution to the club.
Hughton was relieved of his duties at St James' Park on Monday, despite leading the club to the Championship title last season and taking them to 11th in the Premier League table. In a statement, the club said they wanted an "individual with more managerial experience".
Newcastle's decision has been roundly criticised, with defender Sol Campbell expressing his surprise and telling ESPNsoccernet that the playing staff will be asking themselves "What the hell is going on?"
While Nolan has been more diplomatic, the Newcastle skipper has also been taken aback by the decision to remove a popular figure.
"We are all upset that Chris is going," Nolan told The Sun. "He helped a lot of the lads here with their careers when he was a coach and then as manager.
"We will never forget our promotion from the Championship last season and we have to do what he told us. Stick together, make sure we keep the unity Chris has built up and get through this difficult period. It goes without saying we were shocked by the announcement.
"Chris was gutted about what had happened. You could see that. But it said so much about him that, even though he was obviously disappointed to be going, he was still telling me and Joey [Barton] that we had to make sure we had a good season.
"There was such dignity about the way he left, which is how he conducted himself while he was the manager."
Reserve team coach Peter Beardsley will take charge of the first team until a replacement is found, with Martin Jol reportedly a contender having left Ajax on Monday night.