Hughton insists Best still has part to play
CHRIS HUGHTON admits Leon Best has suffered a difficult time since joining Newcastle in January, but claims the shot-shy striker remains an integral part of his plans for next season. Best has been a peripheral figure since moving to the North-East from Coventry, starting just five Championship matches and failing to record a single goal in a blackand- white shirt. The Republic of Ireland international was an unused substitute in Saturday's 4-1 win over Blackpool, and is expected to be back on the bench when the Magpies travel to Reading tonight. But as he begins to turn his attention to next season's campaign in the top-flight, the Newcastle boss insists Best remains an important member of the squad. He's a player we still want for next season, said Hughton. There's no doubting his ability, but it's a difficult time for him. When you're a striker joining a new club, first you want to play games, then more importantly you want to score goals. The unfortunate thing for Leon is that he's seen the form of the other strikers around him, which has resulted in his opportunities being limited. But my way of looking at it is that I'd certainly rather have him at the club than not have him. Of course he wants to be playing and scoring goals, but his time will come. While Best will start next season in a Newcastle shirt, both Nicky Butt and Fabrice Pancrate are expected to leave the club this summer. The pair are due to become free agents in June, and neither has held down a regular starting spot this season. It seems unlikely that either will be offered a new contract, even if Hughton was quick to pay tribute to the impact Pancrate has made since signing a short-term deal as a free agent in October. He's out of contract in the summer so I have a decision to make, said the Magpies manager, who played down recent reports linking him with Portsmouth loanee Jamie O'Hara. He's another who hasn't had the opportunities he would have wanted, but he's definitely added something to the squad. He's given us something in all the games he's been involved in. He wouldn't have played as many games as he would have wanted, but he's been part of a very good and very competitive squad. I wouldn't underestimate what he's given us. Jose Enrique will return to tonight's starting line-up after missing Saturday's win through injury. NEWCASTLE (probable, 4-4-2): Harper; Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Enrique; Routledge, Nolan, Guthrie, Gutierrez; Carroll, Lovenkrands.
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