Sunny outlook for Newcastle thanks to Chris Hughton
As the tears dry and the hangovers kick in on Tyneside, so the fun begins. Newcastle will be linked with top flight players again, agents will be busy ringing Chris Hughton, Mike Ashley and the club's new scout Graham Carr. And there will be speculation surrounding the futures of virtually every player who has helped guide Newcastle back to the Premier League. Of course those players deserve time to enjoy their moment, particularly after the misery of last season and the shock of being relegated. They have also shown already that they are focused on getting out of the Championship as quickly and efficiently as possible. They want that Championship title now and the real party to go with it. Cloud nine: Chris Hughton has guided Newcastle to promotion More from Colin Young... 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Newcastle!04/03/10 COLIN YOUNG: Adam Johnson story a shining example to youngsters23/02/10 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Gibson warns of cost of Boro's failed Euro dream16/02/10 NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Genius like Kevin Phillips is hard to find - but Darren Bent deserves a place at the World Cup 09/02/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVESo there will be plenty of time to sit and ponder whether Jonas and Fabricio will tempt offers with a good World Cup for Argentina, whether the likes of Kevin Nolan, Peter Lovenkrands, Alan Smith and Danny Guthrie will be good enough for the top flight and if Steven Taylor and Andy Carroll can bury their alleged differences to remain Premier League team-mates. Hughton, who is deserving of a new contract to cap his personal contribution to the efforts of this season, will have the reality of all these decisions over the coming weeks and months. And by getting the small matter of promotion out of the way now, Newcastle have plenty of time to prepare for their return, and the obvious difficulties it will bring. They need recruits, they need trimming in the right areas, while bringing players with potential through and they need some serious investment. Billy Davies reckons £60million is required for survival alone and the Nottingham Forest boss should know - and will also be squirming at the prospect of taking Forest up via the play-offs as a result. Of course it is not just at Newcastle where the manager is facing difficult choices on players' futures. Bolo Zenden scores arguably the best ever goal at the Stadium of Light and then asks if he has done enough to stay at Sunderland beyond this season. Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray called it perfectly. The more you saw it, the more you examined his exquisite volley from every angle, the better his goal against Tottenham looked. It was perfection. Magic: Bolo Zenden (left) celebrates his wonder goal for Sunderland Sadly it is also just about the only contribution the former Liverpool and Marseille midfielder has made to Sunderland's season. He has been hindered by injuries and Steve Bruce's reluctance to play any player less than 100 per cent fit for the full 90 minutes. From his 17 league appearances, Zenden has one start. On the few occasions Zenden has been nothing more than reliable. Wear and tear have lessened his impact on Wearside and his injuries will have no doubt frustrated Bruce as much as the ex-Holland international. A player of Zenden's vast experience must know whether he has done enough to secure a longer contract at Sunderland and at least that one goal will have provided the tangible evidence that he has still got something to offer a club like Sunderland. While his experience is no doubt welcome in a squad which is bring moulded by Bruce, would his wages be better spent elsewhere? Task: Gordon Strachan John Mensah is another player with an uncertain future at Sunderland. Bruce has raved about the Ghana defender, who is possibly available for around £6m from Lyon. Bruce clearly loves the stocky centre-back, and makes him Michael Turner's first choice when he is fit. Trouble is he is not fit enough and has been troubled by hamstring and back problems which even the best doctor would find complicated. They are the kind of problems which managers and chairman don't like. The list of players whose future at Sunderland is borderline is frightening. Bruce will know, the players might know, but these promise to be interesting weeks and months for the likes of Steed Malbranque, Kieran Richardson, Kenwyne Jones and Phil Bardsley. Bruce will want new recruits, and hopefully has the finances from Ellis Short to bring in new faces, but it is his wheeling and dealing in the world market, which has been his forte at other clubs, which will determine how much progress Sunderland make under him next season. Which brings us neatly round to Middlesbrough who, I think we can almost safely say now, have blown their chances of the play-offs. Too many draws, too inconsistent, they have blown their chance. And as every team who has been there will tell them, the second season is the toughest in the Championship. There are signs of recovery under Gordon Strachan and a fully fit Scott McDonald will terrorise the division next season. He just needs a more reliable supply from the flanks and behind him, as well as a goalscoring partner. Stephen McManus has also been the ideal partner for David Wheater and would be a welcome addition from Celtic. Sadly, unlike Hughton, Strachan will be planning for a first full season at the Football League. Newcastle have bigger and better challenges ahead, and consequently even bigger choices. And Hughton wouldn't swap places for anything in the world.
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