TYNE-WEAR derby hero Shola Ameobi has called for Chris Hughton to be rewarded with a new long-term contract – and the time and space to move his Newcastle United project forward.
A sensational Ameobi bagged two goals in the 5-1 rout of Sunderland to become the most prolific derby day scorer since Jackie Milburn, before speaking of the need to preserve stability at St James’ Park.
In calling for a new contract for the popular manager he was reflecting the feeling in the dressing room, where Hughton enjoys universal support.
The club have consistently denied reports that Hughton’s position was under threat but following the historic derby win, there is a feeling that contract talks scheduled for the end of the year should be moved forward.
In a bizarre diversion from the club’s derby day celebrations, Newcastle moved to unequivocally deny a left-field story about former chairman Freddy Shepherd preparing a takeover bid for the club.
A statement confirmed the club is “not for sale”.
Having dealt with that swiftly, United’s supporters and players will now hope the club move as quickly to tie Hughton to a deal that lasts beyond the end of the campaign.
“In an ideal world you would like to think he would be given a new contract. All the stuff has been nonsense. As players we’re fully behind him,” Ameobi said. “When you read this stuff (about Hughton being under pressure), the mind boggles. Chris has done such a good job – we’re all fully behind him.
“Hopefully we can put it to bed and a contract can be sorted out.”
Asked about speculation that Hughton had been fighting for his job, the striker said he found it “unbelievable”.
“It’s nonsense. From our point of view as players, it’s nonsense,” he said. “We know Chris, we know what has gone on and what he’s had to do and what he wants to do. Now he just needs to be given time to do that. By the fans, the staff here, by the press ... you can see the fans are fully behind him.
“He needs to be give time to achieve what he wants to achieve here. As players we’re fully behind him and we showed that here.” Ameobi delivered possibly his best ever Newcastle display in helping to slay Sunderland – and revealed he was still coming to terms with his fine performance.
“It’s indescribable. It’s something I dreamt of as a kid and I keep saying I feel lucky to be in the position to do it,” Ameobi said.
“It’s something I always wished for and now I’m here doing it. I feel blessed.
“The most important thing was those three points – it shoots you up the table. If we’d have lost it, it dampens things – especially against our local rivals.”
In a further boost for United, defender Steven Taylor (pictured right) is set to make his reserve-team comeback later today against Wigan’s second string.
“I was delighted to make the bench against Sunderland and I felt ready to play a part if I had been called upon,” Taylor said.
“To prove my fitness, I just want to play as many games as possible now and I’m looking forward to playing against Wigan. If I come through that as expected, I will hope to make the bench again at Arsenal next weekend and then look to try to force my way back into the starting line-up.
“It will just be nice to be out there playing again after such a long time, and I’m excited for it.”
Meanwhile, the club’s statement on the ownership story read as follows: “There has been unfounded speculation today suggesting that Freddy Shepherd intends to put a consortium together in a bid to buy Newcastle United FC from its owner, Mike Ashley.
“The club can confirm that it has not received any contact from Freddy Shepherd expressing an interest in buying the club, nor is the club for sale.”