Birmingham manager Chris Hughton plays down new link with vacancy at West Bromwich
Birmingham manager '100 per cent focused' on play-offs despite past interest at Hawthorns
Chris Hughton insists speculation linking him to the manager's post at West Bromwich Albion is just that, with the Birmingham City manager fully focused on his side's upcoming play-off challenge.
Hughton was interviewed for the Albion vacancy early last year before Roy Hodgson was eventually appointed as the new man in charge, with the former taking the helm at St Andrew's later that summer.
Almost 12 months on Hodgson has now departed to take charge of the England team, while Hughton's stock has risen further, in battling City's well-documented cash-flow problems and putting together a new-look side which impressed in the Europa League and FA Cup before eventually finishing fourth in the Championship.
That has provided a crucial play-off semi-final against Blackpool, with the first leg on Friday, and Hughton insists that is purely where his focus lies.
"I'm on a contract at this football club and it's only speculation – non-facts that are brought to my attention," he said yesterday. "It's always very difficult to talk about things that are hypothetical and things that are very non-fact. We are in a good place. At this moment, [the play-offs] are taking 100 per cent of my focus."
Asked about his previous talks with the Albion chairman, Jeremy Peace, in early 2011 as the club looked for a successor to Roberto Di Matteo, Hughton replied: "I think it was no secret at that time, but it's something that's very much in the past."
Hughton received a rousing reception at Birmingham's end of season awards dinner on Monday as fans clearly showed their affection towards their manager. Winger Chris Burke was the big winner on the night as he scooped Player of the Season and Players' Player of the Season.
Asked about the rumours, Burke said: "I'm sure he would have been linked if there was another job in the Premier League. Obviously, if you're a good manager you're going to get linked. For me, he's helped me ever so much in my career and it's only been one season. That speaks volumes and I'm sure I'm not the only person in that changing room who would say exactly the same thing. He's a manager who's very, very grounded and he knows everything about the club, he knows his players. Hopefully, we can achieve something together."
Elsewhere in the Championship, Hull City's head of football operations, Adam Pearson, has been sacked but the club's owners, Assem and Ehab Allam, have still refused to confirm whether or not the manager, Nick Barmby, has been suspended. Pearson, 47, who spent six years as chairman of the club from 2001, has had his consultancy role terminated "without notice and without compensation".
The Allams refused to respond to speculation that Barmby had been suspended for comments made about the club's financial situation. A club statement yesterday read: "When we acquired the football club we made it clear we would run it in accordance with sound and proper business principles and procedures. We have not and will not deviate from those principles.
"Therefore, although we fully appreciate the supporters' and media's desire for information, we cannot comment on the manager's position at the present time. We will, however, provide further information when we are able to do so.
"Having listened to media speculation over funds not being available in the January transfer window, we reiterate that funds were available as previously stated by us.
"We also confirm the club has terminated the consultancy agreement with Adam Pearson without notice and without compensation.
"We are also aware of speculation about the club being up for sale. We can categorically confirm there is no truth in that rumour and we are fully committed to Hull City and its future."
Barmby has insisted on several occasions in recent weeks that team strengthening was vital during the summer if Hull were to mount a serious promotion challenge.
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