Hughton ready to fight his corner in January sales
CHRIS HUGHTON has denied that he is a Yes man for Mike Ashley's unpopular Newcastle United regime, and claimed he will fight tooth and nail to keep his squad intact if he is asked to sanction further player sales in January. Thousands of supporters are expected to protest against Ashley's decision to christen Newcastle's stadium sportsdirect.com @ St James' Park in the build-up to today's Championship home game with Peterborough. A demonstration outside the entrance to the Milburn Stand is expected to begin at around 1.30pm, with fans keen to express their anger at this week's renaming exercise. Ashley's standing on Tyneside has reached a new low, and while Hughton has not been tarred with the same brush as Newcastle's discredited owner, some supporters have criticised his persistent refusal to speak out against his employers. Such criticism ignores the difficulty of Hughton's position while he remained a caretaker, but now that he has been appointed on a permanent basis, the Magpies manager insists he will not be afraid to bare his teeth. With managing director Derek Llambias admitting Newcastle's turnover has fallen from £100m to £50m in the wake of last season's relegation, Ashley could well be tempted to follow August's selling spree with another auction in January. But with his side currently top of the Championship after almost a third of the campaign, Hughton will do everything he can to keep his current squad intact when the transfer window reopens at the turn of the year. When asked to comment on his reputation as a Yes man', Hughton said: It doesn't hurt me. I have one responsibility at the moment, and that is to manage this group of lads. My remit starts and ends with that. At the moment we are sitting on top of the table, so we must be doing something right. We have to make sure that continues. Will I fight tooth and nail to keep players in January Yes. My intention is certainly not to make this squad any weaker. The possibility of players leaving has not been mentioned. I will have the final say, and I have had no indication that there are any players here who want to leave. That is what I would expect, and if we are to sustain the position we are in, it has to be more a case of adding people than letting people go. Llambias expressed a willingness to support Hughton in the transfer market earlier this week, although Ashley's right-hand man also hinted that his boss would prefer to sign off loan deals rather than permanent acquisitions. There was talk of a possible £1m kitty preferably for players aged 23 or under but Hughton admits he has not discussed the financial parameters he will be forced to work within. I don't know that yet, he said. First, I need to determine what areas I need to bring players into. If we have injuries and are stretched in a certain area, I will obviously target that area and look at the players I need. I have been told I will be supported, but if you are asking if I have been told figures, then no. What I have been told is that it's my responsibility to determine what I need to bring in. I have to assess if I need to strengthen going into the second half of the season. They (Ashley and Llambias) would support me in that. Hughton has made three loan signings since the start of the season Danny Simpson, Zurab Khizanishvili and Marlon Harewood as well as signing Peter Lovenkrands on a permanent deal. Only Simpson can be deemed an unqualified success, with Khizanishvili blotting his copybook with a red card against Doncaster and Lovenkrands making just three starts and four substitute appearances. Harewood has been the biggest failure, with the Aston Villa loanee receiving boos from his own fans as he was substituted in last month's 2-1 win over Doncaster. He was equally ineffective in his previous start at Nottingham Forest. But while Hughton admits Harewood has still to hit top form, there was never any question of Newcastle sending the striker back to Villa Park. We are sticking with him, said the United boss, who will restore Steven Taylor to the starting line-up this afternoon following the centre- half's recovery from injury. We knew Marlon had missed a fair chunk of preseason, and that he had to get fitter when he was here. He has shown a great attitude in training and fitted in with the lads well. As with all strikers, he just needs that goal and display which will lift confidence.
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