Alan Shearer says Chris Hughton deserves his chance to manage Newcastle in the Premier League.
Despite guiding the Magpies to the top of the Championship, surviving the loss of several key players and the club's on-going problems in the boardroom, Shearer and not Hughton remains the preferred choice of manager for supporters on Tyneside.
The former captain and striker, who was caretaker boss when Newcastle were relegated, was overlooked by owner Mike Ashley back in May.
Ashley handed temporary control to Hughton before appointing him as permanent boss in October.
Shearer may still fancy a return to the St James' Park hotseat but he is in no doubt that former Spurs No 2 Hughton has earned his chance in the top flight when, and not if, Newcastle complete their promotion mission in May.
Shearer said: 'Chris Hughton has done a fantastic job this year in just steadying the ship. They are playing some decent football, they are getting good results and they are rightly sitting at the top of the league. They probably will go up and deserve to go up.
'Then the next job starts. It's a big one after that and they won't thank me for saying it, but they are almost there.
'Chris has done a magnificent job in getting them into the position they are in and he certainly won't admit they are nearly there because a manager can't do that. But privately he will be thinking they are nearly there and if they are there he will want a crack at it and he deserves it.'
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