TWELVE months to the day after he was demoted to number three on the Newcastle United coaching staff, Chris Hughton is hoping to extend his stay as the club’s manager.
Despite the fantastic job Hughton has done in turning the demoralised Magpies from a relegated club many were expecting to “do a Leeds” into one which could tomorrow rubber-stamp promotion to the Premier League, rumours abound that he will be sacked in the summer.
Hughton, (right) though, expects to talk to Mike Ashley about a contract extension – but not until his work for the season is over.
His current deal expires at the end of next season and unless it is improved in the coming months, Hughton will be vying for the unwanted title of the top-flight’s lowest-paid manager.
“Surprisingly it’s not a big issue for me,” he insisted. “I’ve got a year left on my contract and I’m sure I’ll be speaking with the owners and Derek (Lambias, the managing director) in the summer and we’ll see then, but it’s certainly for me not a big concern.”
This time last year Hughton lost his job as United’s caretaker manager with the
appointment of Alan Shearer. Newcastle’s record goalscorer brought Iain Dowie as his assistant, instantly relegating Hughton to third in command.
A win at Peterborough tomorrow, combined with a Nottingham Forest defeat at Bristol City, will confirm the Magpies’ return to the top-flight at the first attempt.
For a novice manager whose two caretaker spells were seen by many as decisive in United drifting out of the Premier League, it marks an impressive turnaround.
Even when marginalised by Shearer, Hughton insisted there was no chance of him leaving and he now has his sights on a much longer stay.
“For the two years I’ve been here, irrespective of the fact the end of last season was a difficult time with getting relegated, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said.
“Would I like to stay for a good period of time? Yes, it’s a wonderful club. I’ve enjoyed the association I’ve had with this club and so far it’s been a good season for us. This is a club I would like to stay at.”
Top-scorer Andy Carroll is set to miss tomorrow’s game at Peterborough United and hand Shola Ameobi a first start since mid-January. The striker limped off early in the second half of Monday’s 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest with an ankle injury.
“We certainly haven’t ruled him out but he’s probably got a better chance of being involved on Monday (when Newcastle entertain Sheffield United),” said Hughton.
“If he’s not available to play he won’t travel, no. If he has a chance then he will travel.
“It’s great to have someone like Shola with his quality available to call on. I’m sure if he hadn’t had his injury problems this season he would have scored even more goals at this level.”
With two games over the Easter weekend, Hughton will utilise his squad, though he is yet to decide to what extent.
Alan Smith is in contention to play at London Road having been held back after his own ankle problem.
“He’s ready to come back,” said the manager. “It was my decision on the last game just to keep him back. Could I have rushed him back? Yes, but I felt because of the position we were in which was quite healthy squad-wise I was afforded the extra day or two which was perhaps better for him.”
Hughton had sympathy for those fans scrambling to get tickets for what should, one way or another, be a St James’ Park promotion party on Monday.
“I’ll probably have more (friends and family) here on Monday than on Saturday because of the ticketing situation,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get a few more tickets and have been unable to. It just goes to show you how difficult it is, there’s no favours at this club.”