Club Focus – Newcastle – Managerial uncertainty overshadows derby day build up

Despite being on the receiving end of a 4-0 loss to Arsenal, the biggest story on Tyneside on Wednesday night was the future of manager Chris Hughton. A number of stories in the media claimed that Hughton was on the verge of losing his job, while a number of leading bookmakers were forced to slash the odds on Hughton becoming the latest managerial casualty of the season.

Within minutes of the end of Newcastle’s cup tie against Arsenal a statement was issued from club officials to give their backing to their current manager. It read: “Chris is our manager and will remain our manager, and it is our intention to renegotiate his contract at the end of the year.”

Quite what Hughton has done to deserve this confusion surrounding his future is a mystery with Newcastle currently sitting 9th in the Premier League at this early stage. He has led the club through troubled waters and helped to stabilise matters both on and off the field. Given one of the lowest budgets in the league he has made some astute signings given his managerial experience. He also importantly has the backing of the vast majority of the fans who have been impressed with his unassuming manner and the team spirit he has created.

With Hughton’s contract due to expire at the end of the current season there will always be an element of uncertainty over his position until a longer contract is signed. Both parties have made it clear that further contract discussions are to be held in a couple of month’s time. Until then Hughton is effectively under probation with the board unwilling to pay a hefty compensation fee if results suddenly start to dip alarmingly under a longer term deal.

The result on the pitch will hardly have improved Hughton’s mood with his much changed side well-beaten by Arsenal. There were Nine changes made from the side which won at West Ham and their inexperience and lack of quality told against a strong looking Arsenal second string. Luck was also certainly against Newcastle with the two opening goals owing to misfortune. With Newcastle forced to push for goals to get back into the game they were always likely to be vulnerable on the break.

However all will be forgotten quickly by the fans if their side are victorious over bitter north-east rivals Sunderland on Sunday. St James’ Park plays host to its first derby game in over a year with the Geordies desperate to get some momentum going on home. Little separates the two teams in the league with Sunderland currently seventh but just a point ahead of Newcastle. Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll look likely to forge an all Geordie striker force after a good showing against West Ham. The game comes too early for another local lad in the form of Steven Taylor.

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