Hughton wrestles with balancing act for Cup tie

02 January 2010 10:49
CHRIS Hughton will be shuffling his pack when Newcastle visit Plymouth in the FA Cup third round this afternoon, but the Magpies manager has pledged to field a stronger line-up than the one that succumbed to Peterborough in the Carling Cup.

Newcastle's first game of 2010 takes them all the way to the south-west coast, but with the focus firmly trained on winning promotion to the Premier League, the FA Cup is hardly at the top of the club's list of priorities.

As a result, Hughton will take the opportunity to rest most of the players who were involved in both of the festive matches against Sheffield Wednesday and Derby, although he will resist the kind of sweeping changes that were in evidence at Peterborough in September.

The likes of Haris Vuckic, James Tavernier and Ben Tozer all started as Newcastle crashed out of the Carling Cup at the third-round stage, and while changes should be expected today, a more experienced side will take the field at Home Park.

Will the side have more experience than the Peterborough game Yes, said Hughton.

We have to take into account the fact that it's a weekend game and we don't play another game until the following weekend.

We also have players in the squad who haven't played many games of late, for whatever reason, so I see myself using the squad that's at my disposal. But in comparison to the side I put out at Peterborough, it'll certainly be far more experienced.

Tim Krul is expected to make his third start of the season in place of regular goalkeeper Steve Harper, while Hungarian defender Tamas Kadar is likely to replace Fabricio Coloccini in the back four.

Nicky Butt will be involved at the heart of midfield after sitting out the goalless draw with Derby, and Frenchman Fabrice Pancrate is poised to start on the right of midfield after three successive appearances from the bench.

Hughton is mindful of the need to rest players who have been heavily involved in the opening half of the season, but the Newcastle boss is also aware of the expectations of the 2,400 travelling fans who are expected to make the long journey from the North-East to Devon.

The supporters will accept a certain degree of rotation, but would be within their rights to question the need to surrender to a side that is struggling in 22nd position in the Championship.

It's my responsibility to use the game to get the right balance, said Hughton. It's not just about players getting a rest, it's about taking the game on its merits.

It is tricky. We've got a lot of fans going down there and that's incredible support for the distance involved and the likely conditions they'll have to travel in. We're very respectful of that, but we will do what's right for us.

It's an opportunity to give certain people a game in a certain position, and there'll be players playing who haven't been playing regularly. But there'll also be experience in the team and it's my job to work round everything and field a side that's good enough to win the game.

Hughton knows all about the magic of the FA Cup, having played in three finals during the 1980s, and the former Tottenham defender counts his first success in the competition as one of his proudest moments in football.

The former Republic of Ireland international was part of the Spurs team that beat Manchester City courtesy of a replay that featured Ricky Villa's wonder goal, and while he went on to repeat the feat 12 months later as Tottenham beat QPR, he regards his maiden final appearance as his greatest FA Cup memory.

I was fortunate to play in three cup finals, one of which we lost in 1987, he said. The first one would be the biggest highlight for me because it was the first one, and as a player, you generally remember your first achievement as your best.

As well as lifting the trophy on two occasions, Hughton was also involved in three of the FA Cup's more embarrassing moments. The Newcastle boss helped record Tottenham's cup final records with Chas and Dave, and while the Cockney duo have recently split up, he is already eyeing a Geordie alternative.

I definitely remember the first two in 81 and 82, and I'm pretty sure we did one with Chas and Dave in 87 as well,

he said. Would the ideal scenario be for us to get to the final and for them to reform and do us a cup final song

Yes, I suppose so. Or perhaps we could get a Geordie version instead with Ant and Dec

Source: Northern_Echo