CHRIS Hughton has denied reports Newcastle United will ask their biggest earners to take a pay cut if they are promoted as he accused people of trying to upset his squad.
Hughton rarely betrays any emotion in public, but he was clearly annoyed by the reports, as was managing director Derek Llambias who also told The Journal there was “no truth whatsoever” in the claims.
Llambias rang Hughton – who also received a visit from owner Mike Ashley at the training ground – yesterday to reassure him of that fact as the team try to focus on their preparations for Saturday’s Tees-Tyne derby clash with Middlesbrough.
The reports suggested the top earners at St James’ Park would have their pay packets reduced and their contracts extended in order to spread the costs of the wage bill over a longer period.
“That financial story is not particularly helpful,” said Hughton, who admits he tries to steer clear of financial matters whenever possible.
“I was made aware of it this morning and as far as I know there is nothing in it. It just seems to have been plucked out of thin air. As far as I know there is absolutely not truth in it.
“The only thing we are interested in is football. Contracts and things like that can wait until the end of the season. It’s nothing I’m aware of. We’ve got used to a lot of speculation, especially financial speculation around the club.
“We have 12 games left and we can’t afford to worry about anything that can detract from our objective and the sole objective is to get enough points to get promotion.”
Although Newcastle are six points clear at the top of the Championship with a game in hand, Hughton is still wary of letting things slip in the final straight and privately feels the stories are designed to upset and unsettle his squad in the promotion run-in.
That run-in will be boosted by the return of winger Wayne Routledge, although Hughton admitted he may keep his comeback on hold until after the trip to Riverside.
Routledge has not played since scoring his first United goal in the 4-1 win over Coventry City on February 12, but was due to have a fitness test this morning before Hughton names his squad for the short journey to Teesside. Alan Smith will almost certainly miss out as he has not been able to train this week because of an ankle problem, although Jose Enrique was able to join in with the main group yesterday and should start tomorrow.
LYON have been hit by the news that former Newcastle defender Jean-Alain Boumsong will be sidelined for up to three weeks with a calf injury.
Boumsong and Jean II Makoun were both replaced at the break during Wednesday night’s draw at Real Madrid which saw the French outfit progress to the Champions League quarter-finals.
It has not been revealed how long the midfielder will be out of action for, but Boumsong will miss the next “two to three weeks”.
Both will miss this weekend’s derby against St Etienne while Boumsong will also be absent for the Ligue 1 clashes against Marseille, Grenoble and possibly Rennes.