CHRIS Hughton has re-assured Newcastle United fans that midfield talisman Kevin Nolan will not be leaving St James’ Park after holding his first pre-transfer window briefing with Mike Ashley.
The United owner was at the club’s Benfield Park training ground yesterday on a routine visit to talk shop with managing director Derek Llambias and Hughton – one of Ashley’s first flying visits since confirming his appointment as permanent boss.
The United manager is looking to strengthen his squad, but is also aware of growing interest in one of his star performers, Kevin Nolan – with Everton boss David Moyes an interested onlooker as the midfielder produced a moment of inspiration to steal three points at Preston on Monday.
Bolton are also understood to have an interest, while former Bolton bosses Phil Brown and Sam Allardyce are long-term admirers of United’s top scorer.
Hughton is adamant that they are wasting their time tracking Nolan, however, and has bullishly insisted that the midfielder is not for sale at any price. Coming just a few hours after meeting Ashley, it is a further sign that the United boss will not have to contemplate letting any of his big hitters leave when the transfer window opens in January.
The Newcastle manager’s resolve has been strengthened by the attitude of his players, who have buckled down admirably to get the club out of the Championship and do not want to leave before “righting a few wrongs”.
“I am absolutely confident we can keep Kevin – I’m very confident that we can keep him and we won’t have to sell him,” Hughton said.
“The same goes for Kevin as well, I’m confident he does not want to leave. What we have in this group are players that have shown a great desire to right a few wrongs. The players have made a commitment to wanting to get this club out of this division and they want to see it through now.
“They have done very well but now it is up to them to show that throughout the season. We have had predominantly good experiences so far this season but maybe there will be different experiences up to Christmas, after Christmas and after the window.
“We have to be able to come through whatever is thrown at us and the experience of players like Kevin will help us.” More pressingly for Hughton, he is pondering whether to add Fabrice Pancrate and Shola Ameobi to the squad to face fourth-placed Swansea tomorrow. French winger Pancrate has shown
enough in training to warrant consideration and would help United force matters further up the field.
“Fabrice is a player of vast experience. We knew that when he came into the squad he would hit the ground running – he’s got experience at a very good level,” he said.
“He’s hit it off very well with the players in the squad. He’s ready to go as far as I’m concerned. He’s probably not played the amount of games that we would have liked him to or that he would have liked to but he’s fit and he’s been training since the summer.
“He didn’t look short during the reserve game last week, so as far as I’m concerned he is available.”
Ameobi could also earn a place in the squad after training all week although Hughton is understandably cautious about the striker after three months out with a broken foot. “Shola trained this week but we have to mindful of the fact he’s been out for a while,” he said.
“If it was one that was forced upon us with the numbers we’ve got it might be one that we’ll take a chance on.
“We’re not ruling him out of playing some part in the squad on Saturday but the likelihood is that it’ll be the Watford game.”