Club Focus – Newcastle – Tough week for Hughton ahead of Hammers clash

Newcastle return to action on Saturday on the back of one of the toughest weeks in Chris Hughton’s time as manager. Losing his assistant Colin Calderwood and an off-the-field problem involving key player Andy Carroll has caused a stressful week for one of the Premier League’s least experienced managers. How much of a toll these events have had on the team will be revealed when they take on West Ham in a televised encounter. With Newcastle now down to 16th in the league a defeat could well see them in the bottom three for the first time this season. In their opening eight games the Magpies have generally performed better on their travels with the highlight being a 1-0 victory over Everton at Goodison Park. Another disciplined display will again be needed against the Hammers who have been rejuvenated in recent weeks following a sorry start to the season.

Andy Carroll is in contention to retain his place in the starting line-up despite another troubled week for the 21 year old. In the latest twist to his off-the-field dramas Carroll’s car was attacked by arsonists outside the home of club captain Kevin Nolan. Police were called after the striker’s Range Rover was found torched and graffiti daubed on a garage door. Despite these setbacks Hughton is willing to play Carroll, he said: “I think he is in the right state of mind to play, knowing his personality as I do. He is in the right frame of mind to play on Saturday. I have got decisions to make regarding the squad but all those decisions will be made solely on footballing reasons.” Nolan is also set to for a place in the team after being left out entirely from the squad which faced Wigan. Hughton believes that the Scouser is fit enough to return after a prolonged rest period. In other team news defender Sol Campbell is unavailable for a return to London after suffering a thigh injury – the injury may also rule him out of the game against his former employer’s Arsenal next week. Right back Danny Simpson could make a return to first team action after getting further match action in the Reserves’ 4-1 win over Bolton.

Hughton is hoping that these testing times of late for the club will make his group of players stronger. Despite a Championship winning campaign last season there were still moments when the team had to overcome major hurdles. The same character will be needed in the coming weeks on the back of three games without a win. Hughton said: “They are testing times. But these are periods you have to go through and certainly at this football club, we have been able to go through these periods and if anything, it has made us stronger as an outfit and stronger as a team. I see no reason why we can’t do that again.” It will be up to Hughton who he brings in as his new number two although a number of names have already been linked with the position. Former Newcastle assistant managers Steve Clarke and John Carver have been linked with a return to the club. Former manager Joe Kinnear has also been linked with the assistant’s position.

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