Thursday 30 March 2017

Hughton calm in Toon storm

Damian Spellman

Chris Hughton is a man with a gift for understatement. The Newcastle manager's two-and-a-half-year stay on Tyneside, which has encompassed one spell as a coach, three as caretaker manager and, for the last year or so, occupation of the hot-seat in his own right, has been nothing if not eventful.

Within the last fortnight, he has seen blossoming striker Andy Carroll spend a night in a police cell, make two court appearances and in the meantime, have his car burnt out on captain Kevin Nolan's driveway; he has lost coach Colin Calderwood to Hibernian, and now has to deal with intense speculation about his own future.

In addition, the former Tottenham and Ireland defender has had to cope with the contrasting emotions of three matches -- a rousing fightback to clinch a 2-2 draw with Wigan, a creditable 2-1 win at West Ham and Wednesday night's 4-0 Carling Cup exit at the hands of Arsenal's young guns.

Backing

The 51-year-old received the public backing of the club's hierarchy after that game with the announcement of a new contract -- yet to be agreed -- and through it all has displayed a commendable calm, refusing to celebrate the highs too wildly and greeting the setbacks with perspective rather than despair.

His assessment of the task his side faces in Sunday's derby clash with Sunderland, therefore, should come as a surprise to no-one. Newcastle welcome the Black Cats to St James' Park having lost three of their last four games there, with only a late Fabricio Coloccini strike sparing them further pain against Wigan.

Asked about that run of results, Hughton's response bore his distinctive trademark. "What we do know is we have done very well away from home, but we need to address our home form," he said. "I am aware that we need to be making sure we are picking up some results, and it would be an ideal game to do it in."

Hughton's measured response, however, should not be mistaken for a lack of passion or awareness of what is at stake this weekend. He is a veteran of the north London derby and has spent enough time in the north-east to fully appreciate a rivalry which is as intense as any other in football.

To that end, he rested nine of the men who had secured a first top-flight win in four attempts at Upton Park on Saturday for the Arsenal tie in a clear statement of his priorities.

Hughton insisted he would take positives from the game, and backed his stand-in 'keeper Tim Krul, who is deputising for the injured Steve Harper, to bounce back from a disappointing display.

"Certainly as a goalkeeper, you have got to be resilient, you have got to be able to put mistakes behind you and look forward, and I am very confident he will," said Hughton.

Irish Independent

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