CHRIS Hughton believes that he has earned the “honour” of managing Newcastle United on a permanent basis after confirming that he expects to be handed the job by the end of the week.
Hughton, who was offered the permanent role in principle last week, will meet Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias after tonight’s game at Scunthorpe United to iron out details of a contract which will take him to the end of next season.
Hughton’s current assistant Colin Calderwood is also expected to agree a long-term deal.
It is likely to mean that Hughton is confirmed in the role permanently by Thursday – preceding an announcement that the club is being taken off the market after Barry Moat failed to come up with the £80m that Ashley wanted for the sale of United.
With no other realistic bidders, Ashley’s ownership of the club will limp on until the end of the season, when he will hope promotion will flush out fresh interest.
The responsibility for achieving that will now fall to Hughton, who has performed well in difficult circumstances and in the shadow of Newcastle legend Alan Shearer, who has been widely tipped to be appointed manager should a takeover of the club succeed.
And, although Hughton said that he “respects” everything that the club’s former number nine has achieved with the club, he believes results under his leadership mean that he is the right man to take United forward.
“I am honoured to be offered the job, we are still in negotiations, it is something we hope will get resolved,” he said.
“The prospect of keeping this team in the top end of this division with the possibility of promotion – those are the things that excite me very much.
“The results we’ve got over the large majority of the season have been very positive and it is a testament to what we have achieved.
“Any offer to myself is in recognition of the work I have done and that would be my only focus. But I’ve been in the city long enough to recognise what Alan Shearer has done for this club and for this city.”
Although by no means the unanimous choice of the United faithful, he has won over sceptical supporters with the dignity he has shown in trying circumstances and the results achieved in the early weeks of the season. Most will reason that he is far more suitable for the role than Joe Kinnear (below), the other candidate that the club were considering earlier in the summer.
But fans will be anxious that the move to appoint Hughton appears to spell an end to Moat’s hopes of wresting control from the reviled Ashley – who suffered a further dent to his credibility in the wake of the Kevin Keegan tribunal.
He has previously appointed managers only to undermine their leadership and it is now Hughton’s job to thrash out the terms of taking control.
Ashley was quoted over the weekend as saying he would retain the final say over who will arrive and leave the club – although Hughton insists he has been backed by the owner in his forays into the loan market. “Any offer for me to manage the club for me is a positive,” Hughton said. “All the other things around the club, it’s impossible for me to speak about because I haven’t had those discussions.
“I think that until I get into discussions, they are the finer details that are only discussed between the two parties. For me, it’s not about demands and until I get into those discussions there’s a lot of areas I don’t know.”
Hughton feels getting stability over the managerial situation will help the club’s aim of promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
“What happens every single week is everyone keeps asking when or if are you going to be asked the job,” he added.
“So it will be nice to have that answered.”