Hughton uses No 9 shirt as incentive
Published 05/02/2010 | 05:00
In a surprising break with tradition, Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton has decided to withhold the No 9 shirt from his strikers and challenged them to prove they are worthy of achieving "iconic" status.
His stance means this season will be the first since shirt numbers were introduced in 1939 that Newcastle have gone without a No 9 in their ranks to follow in the footsteps of Jackie Milburn, Malcolm Macdonald and Alan Shearer.
Hughton, speaking ahead of tonight's visit of Cardiff, said: "It's one of the most iconic shirts around and it's something I've done deliberately.
"What we have is a lot of strikers here and I'm quite sure every single one would have wanted to wear the No 9. When I came to this club I was made aware -- that I didn't already know -- what the No 9 meant to this club.
"For some, it can be a heavy number to carry, a burden if you like, and wearing it is an achievement which I want somebody to grow into. I want somebody to earn the right to be Newcastle's No 9."
Hughton's strategy emerged following the Championship leaders' signing of forward Leon Best from Coventry.
"I certainly don't anticipate years going past without a No 9 at this club," Hughton said.
"I don't want to suggest that the strikers we've got here aren't worthy of that position or that number. It certainly isn't that.
He added: "That would give people the wrong thoughts of how I think about them. Each of them has a real strong value to this club."