CHRIS Hughton is hoping that his third spell as caretaker boss of Newcastle United is a brief one – after admitting that the club need to appoint a permanent manager “as soon as possible”.
With the squad reassembling for the start of pre-season training tomorrow, Hughton has again been asked by United owner Mike Ashley to take charge on a temporary basis. He will be assisted by Colin Calderwood, who has rejoined the club on a week-to-week contract, and goalkeeping coach Paul Barron until there is a breakthrough in Ashley’s attempts to sell United.
Hughton admits he has “no idea” how long that will take, but is at pains to point out that his sphere of influence will not include recruitment, player contracts or deciding which of the squad members will be allowed to leave.
With so much work to be done to prepare for what promises to be a gruelling Championship campaign, Hughton unsurprisingly agrees with the majority view that the impasse can not be allowed to continue for much longer.
He has batted back suggestions that the lack of manager will harm pre-season preparations, however, insisting that few managers will be a regular presence on the training ground this early in the summer.
“I don’t know how long I will be in charge for. It could be three days, a week, two weeks, three weeks... I’m not sure,” he admitted. “My job will be to make sure that the squad is properly prepared, to begin work on pre-season and begin a good programme that gives us a chance of doing what we want to do – getting back into the Premier League.
“As regards anything else like bringing in players, that is not my responsibility at the moment. At some stage someone will come in and take over from me.
“Everyone is aware that there is interest in taking over the club and something could happen soon.
“But I’m not sure when that will be – I don’t know anymore than anyone at the moment. For all our sakes we hope it is sooner rather than later. Whether it is Alan Shearer or not, whoever comes in needs as much time as possible. It is definitely a case of the sooner, the better – because there is work to be done.”
Hughton doesn’t feel that the lack of a manager will cause too much damage at
this stage, however. The club’s internationals have been given an extra week to recover, so he will be overseeing a threadbare squad for the first few days.
“It won’t harm things too much,” he said. “Certainly in the past during pre-seasons you don’t see too much of the manager during those first few days. He will generally let the coaches take care of things, so in that respect things aren’t too different.
“We will work hard over the rest of the week, put the grounding in there and try to push on towards those first games now.”
While Hughton’s record in charge was poor, there must be sympathy for the unenviable position he was put in by the Mike Ashley and the United board on two occasions last season. Hughton is well-respected in football circles and was only ever meant to be part of the coaching team. Instead, the former Tottenham player was asked to take charge when the club was in serious turmoil and could not turn the tide.
He was eventually relieved of first-team control when Shearer took over, and Hughton says he thoroughly enjoyed his short time working alongside the former United number nine and assistant boss Iain Dowie.
“I really enjoyed working with Alan,” he revealed. “Both him and Iain are very professional people and Alan certainly has an aura about him.”