Club Focus – Newcastle United – Decisions required behind the scenes

Newcastle United extended their winless run to three league games as they succumbed to a deserved defeat at Nottingham Forest. The 1-0 loss means that Newcastle drop to second in the table behind West Brom, albeit only on goal difference. Despite suffering their first bad spell of the season it appears that Newcastle will offer caretaker boss Chris Hughton the manager’s job on a permanent basis. Since taking charge in pre-season, Hughton has steered the Magpies through turbulent waters and has impressed many with his dignity and ability to foster a real team spirit among the players. In a statement, Hughton said: “I am honoured to be offered the job, we are still in negotiations, but it is something I hope to be resolved soon. I have always felt that the manager’s situation was an issue, but not the most important one. Getting results has been the most important thing. Once we have got Scunthorpe and Doncaster out of the way we will have discussions with Derek Llambias.” The move should bring some much needed stability to the club and few can argue that Hughton does not deserve the job full-time.

Defeat to Forest was only Newcastle’s second of the season in the league, but there could be few complaints about the final score. Forest – no doubt buoyed by Kevin Nolan’s comments that beating Newcastle would be like winning another European Cup – should have been well ahead by the end of the first half. Fortunately for Newcastle, goalkeeper Steve Harper was on top form to keep his side in the game. Although they improved drastically after the break, Newcastle struggled to create many goal-scoring chances. Nottingham Forest are probably the most improved side in the Championship after a slow start to the season, and for much of the game they outplayed Newcastle with their slick passing. They were able to gain control in midfield with Alan Smith subdued following an early yellow card meaning he was unable to go into challenges with his usual gusto.

With first choice central-defenders Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini both ruled out with injury, Newcastle’s lack of strength in depth was exposed at the back. On-loan Zurab Khizanishvili was partnered by Danny Simpson, normally found at full-back, in a nervous looking defence. For the only goal of the game there was a gaping hole in the centre of defence to allow Dexter Blackstock through to score. Newcastle also lacked any penetration in midfield with Peter Lovenkrands out of sorts on the left wing. They looked better going forward when Jonas Gutierrez was introduced down the left but he had only returned from international duty on Friday night. Newcastle could hardly blame the international break for their defeat with only a handful of players involved for their countries.

Midfielder Kevin Nolan was again quoted in the media after the game. With his claim before the game that beating Newcastle would be like winning another European Cup, he probably provided the team talk for Forest manager Billy Davies. However, this time around he talked more sense, urging the Magpies’ hierarchy to strengthen their small squad. He said: “We’ve been saying this for a long time and it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. We need to strengthen the squad if we are going to give ourselves the best chance of going up. Chris Hughton needs the right backing – that’s been proved against Forest. We’ve lost Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini and we’re having to play a right-back at centre- half. It’s a paper thin squad and a couple of injuries kill us. It’s frustrating to have to keep saying it.”

Owner Mike Ashley has dropped his asking price for the club from £100m to £80m. He also urged local businessman Barry Moat to ‘put up or shut up’ with his takeover bid. In a rare interview with the Sunday Times, Ashley said: “Barry Moat has been driving me mad for two years. If he wants to buy the club, he’s got a one-off opportunity to come up with the cash – £80m up front. I have to put £20m a year into this club each year. It you can’t pay up front to buy the club, you can’t afford it.” In the interview Ashley also admitted that he regretted buying the club and that he has the final say on players. On Tuesday night The Magpies visit Glanford Park for a match against Scunthorpe. They will need to be on their guard against opponents who will be well up for the game.

Newcastle United Club Focus

Pre-season woe – July 29
Fans say goodbye to a hero – August 5
Bridge over troubled water? – August 12
Local boy steps up – August 18
Home-grown strike partnership takes effect – August 21
Geordie resurgence gains momentum – August 25
Takeover still talk of the Toon – August 28
St James’ Park Ranger keeps Magpies firing – September 1
Ex-Magpie returns just as window shuts – September 4
Want-away striker leaves already thin squad – September 8
Former striker aims to shoot down Magpies – September 11
Newcastle return to Championship summit – September 15
Magpies upset on trip to the seaside – September 18
Magpies return to winning ways – September 22
Early cup exit shows where priorities are this season – September 25
Emphatic win a fitting tribute to Sir Bobby – September 29
Harewood announces arrival – October 2
Keegan victorious in legal battle – October 6
Quiet-ish times on Tyneside – October 16
Decisions required behind the scenes – October 20

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