CHRIS HUGHTON is preparing to scour the Championship bargain bin in a bid to strengthen his Newcastle United squad for next season’s Premier League campaign.
The Magpies manager had budgeted to sign three or four new recruits following promotion to the top flight, but has been told by owner Mike Ashley that there will be “no capital outlay on new players” during the summer.
Ashley has indicated that he intends to use what money United have earned by going up – estimated to be in the region of up to £50 million – to service the club’s most recent annual losses, which were just short of £40 million in each of the last two financial years, as well as an overdraft currently standing at £20 million.
That has left Hughton – also interested in loan deals for Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley and Jack Wilshere – scanning a near 150-strong list of footballers whose contracts are due to expire on June 30, ranging from the likes of Cardiff City’s highly-rated midfielder Joe Ledley to veterans such as Sheffield United pair James Harper and Henri Camara.
And having witnessed the successful manner in which Everton boss David Moyes has groomed talent from the Championship transfer market, Hughton has faith in his ability to do likewise.
“They are players in this division who have had very good seasons,” Hughton said. “There are players in the Championship that I am sure can do a job at a higher level.
“They are definitely capable of stepping up given the opportunity.”
That much has been proved by Toffees boss Moyes, a former manager of Preston North End who has drawn on his experience of football’s second tier to sign players like Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka from Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United respectively, before moulding them into proven Premier League performers.
“David Moyes has done it in the past, signing players from this level and taking them successfully into the Premier League,” Hughton noted.
“It shows that the players are there, it’s just a case of identifying them and giving them an opportunity.
“You look at what David Moyes has done at Everton and for any manager he’s a great example of how to build a team and be successful by improving the players he has.”
Few have improved more during his time on Tyneside than former Leeds United and Manchester United striker turned midfielder Alan Smith.
And the United star has warned his team-mates of the importance of maintaining St James’ Park’s current status as an impregnable fortress if they are to enjoy a successful return to the Premier League.
“We’ve gone the whole season unbeaten at home and were the only team in the country to do so,” said Smith.
“If you look back over the years, St James’ Park was always one of the most difficult places to come. We need to get that fear back again and I think we’ve given ourselves a great chance of doing that after this season’s record.
“Our main aim next season has to be survival, we know that. And if we’re to do that then we’re going to have to get the majority of our points at home.
“If you can win half your home games then you’re more than half way to staying up. We’ve got that momentum at St James’ now but we have to make sure we keep that going.”
Meanwhile, with sources in Scotland claiming that Newcastle’s pre-season friendly at Glasgow Rangers will go ahead on Saturday August 7, former Ibrox star and current United striker Peter Lovenkrands has said: “This game will be ideal for preparation for both clubs.
“Playing the Scottish champions will be a great test for us. Any game at Ibrox is tough and that’s why we’re all really excited about it. Our fans are also happy about going up to Glasgow and I’m sure they’ll enjoy the occasion as well.”