CHRIS Hughton has eased fears that Newcastle United will remain rudderless into the new season by revealing that he does not expect to be in charge of the club when they kick off their new campaign in the Championship.
United remain locked in limbo while the club’s takeover drags on, although bankers Seymour Pierce are believed to have made a recommendation to the club’s board about preferred buyers.
That was hoped to be a significant step towards announcing new owners but the club again opted to stay silent on what – if any – progress was being made last night.
United managing director Derek Llambias declined to comment on a new link with Austrian gaming giant Bwin when approached by The Journal last night, but representatives of the company were definitely in the North East this week.
It leaves the club shrouded in a fog of confusion that has over-shadowed Saturday’s first pre-season clash against Shamrock Rovers – and thrust the methodical Hughton back into the spotlight.
Forced to take on the role for the third time in less than a year, Hughton insists that he is prepared to take the club forward for as long as he is asked by beleaguered owner Mike Ashley.
But with “at least” two bids having been received by the club, he is under the impression that a new manager will be in place shortly.
“The feeling is that it’s hopefully not too far away,” he said, speaking from the club’s Dublin training base.
“Until told otherwise I am prepared to hold the fort for as long as it takes. But it seems like there are things going on and obviously the sooner that happens, the better it is for all concerned.
“As far as I know, there have been at least two parties that have made an offer and that is all I’m aware of at the moment.
“I could be in charge another two days, another four days or a bit longer. But I would have thought it would be sooner rather than later.
“I think the spirit is superb among the squad and the lads have been very professional in the way that they have approached things because it is obviously difficult not knowing where we are going.”
Hughton rejects suggestions that the club’s pre-season preparations have been anything less than professional, with the players being put through three sessions a day as they build fitness ahead of the
beginning of the Championship campaign.
But it cannot be denied that they desperately need new players to supplement a squad that has lost members since last year’s horrendous campaign.
Hughton, however, has not been given the green light to bring trialists in when Newcastle return to the UK next week and does not anticipate being given responsibility to make new signings.
“When somebody is appointed, he will make the decisions for himself. That, at the moment, is not my responsibility – my responsibility is solely to look after the team and take charge of them for pre-season games while there is no permanent manager,” he said.
Alan Shearer looks on as a frustrated man and the would-be boss is seeing his targets fall by the way-side.
Leeds United striker Jermaine Beckford has been short-listed as a priority target by Shearer if he takes over but the Whites want to have that situation sorted out by Monday, leaving Newcastle an unlikely destination for the forward.
Against the backdrop of Newcastle’s continued search for a new owner, it seems almost surreal that the club will return to action over the weekend.
Hughton will give all of his squad a run-out during Saturday’s clash with Shamrock Rovers – who will be playing just 24 hours after a league game against Bray.
“We have four goalkeepers with us so we can’t play all of them. But every single fit member of the squad will play a part,” he said.
FRANCE striker Karim Benzema was presented as a Real Madrid player last night after completing his 41m transfer from Lyon.
The 21-year-old passed a medical yesterday having already agreed a six-year deal with the Bernabeu club and was unveiled as Madrid’s latest ‘Galactico’.
Benzema successfully completed his medical at the Hospital Sanitas La Moraleja ahead of his presentation.
“I’m absolutely delighted to become a Real Madrid player, the best club in the world,” Benzema said last night.
“I’m delighted to be able to play for the same club as two of my idols played for, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo.”
The France international will cost Madrid an initial 35 , rising to 41m dependent on performances, and will be the fourth new arrival to be unveiled by the Spanish giants since Florentino Perez returned to the presidency at the start of June.
Kaka was the first to be presented last Tuesday following his move from AC Milan, then came former Valencia defender Raul Albiol last Thursday, before world-record signing Cristiano Ronaldo took centre stage on Monday.