NEWCASTLE United boss Chris Hughton has saluted his “team full of captains” as they prepare to round the season off in style at St James’ Park today.
Hughton’s Championship winners will be presented with the Football League trophy in front of a sell-out home crowd at Gallowgate this afternoon – a fitting way to end a uplifting campaign.
United’s history-makers will be bidding to preserve their 23-game unbeaten home record and surpass the 100-point mark against Ipswich. Few would bet against it given United’s results since Christmas – form that Hughton puts down to having a squad full of potential skippers.
Nicky Butt will hoist the trophy aloft after the game but there were plenty of other candidates for that honour. Alan Smith has donned the armband for most of the season while long-serving goalkeeper Steve Harper and top-scorer Kevin Nolan have also played huge roles in an impressive effort.
“We’ve had plenty of captains out there this season,” Hughton said. “It’s been a key and I could probably add another couple of names to the ones that people have mentioned (like Smith, Butt and Harper).
“Colo (Frabricio Coloccini) is a quieter individual but he’s had an excellent season. There are some real good characters in the dressing
room who’ve been strong on and off the pitch and that’s been a big thing for us. Fabricio is a good example of how well we’ve done.
“Some will say we’ve dropped down a division but I do see a development in his game as each season goes past.
“Irrespective of the division it’s still the English game and a tough division and I see a player who has developed.”
That unity and togetherness came under scrutiny last month following talk of a training ground bust-up between Steven Taylor and Andy Carroll – and today both players are set to share centre stage at St James’ Park for the first time since that incident.
Although the game may come too early for Taylor to return to the squad, he will collect his Championship winner’s medal on the same podium as his fellow Academy graduate.
That will be a minor footnote on a historic day, with Hughton insistent there are “no problems” between the pair, who were pictured training together this week.
“They’re part of a group of lads who get on very well together,” Hughton said. “Steve’s been in as per normal, Andy has been training as per normal. We have a very together squad and there are no problems.”
When the celebrations have finished, Hughton will sit down with Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias to talk through the club’s transfer budget – as well as the possibility of a contract extension for a manager who has taken Newcastle up at the first time of asking.
“I’ve always wanted to wait until what I regard as the important business is done – securing promotion and winning the Championship,” Hughton added.
“We’ve had meetings. but that’s normal I’d have meetings with Derek quite regularly. The bigger meetings as you might put it for the bigger issues we’ll be having.
“I wanted to leave any talk of contracts until after that. I anticipate I would have meetings with Derek and Mike regarding lots of issues, players for next season and the normal stuff.
“Hopefully that will be the case but I am under contract anyway. The situation would be different if I was out of contract, but I’m under contract and while that is the case the most important thing is the football. I’ve not been knocking down doors.”