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Football League

Chris Hughton plays down exit talk following Birmingham play-off elimination


Birmingham manager Chris Hughton was adamant the aftermath of his team's npower Championship play-off semi-final heartache at the hands of Blackpool was no time to discuss his future.

Blues hit back to claim an absorbing 2-2 draw in last night's second leg at St Andrew's, but it was the Tangerines who progressed to the final against West Ham at Wembley on May 19 having triumphed 1-0 in the first leg last Friday.

In the build-up to that encounter, Hughton said media talk linking him as the successor to England-bound Roy Hodgson at West Brom was just that.

And his stance had not wavered after Birmingham's 62-game season came to an end.

"It's very difficult for me to comment on anything because anything's that's been mentioned at all has always just been speculation," Hughton said.

"And I think it's probably not fitting at this moment."

He added: "I'm sitting here and everything that's been said about me has very much been speculation. It's certainly not the right moment because it's about a group of players. I'm as devastated as they are because we've got so close."

Hughton has performed superbly in his first campaign in charge at Birmingham, battling the club's well-documented cash-flow problems and putting together a new-look side which went on to perform strongly both domestically and in Europe.

The bulk of City's squad was overhauled last summer to cope with the financial demands of dropping out of the top flight.

But Hughton does not envisage a repeat over the coming months.

"I don't see wholesale changes," he said. "We lost a lot of players this season and right at this moment I don't anticipate seeing another exodus.

"But, of course, I need to sit down with Peter (Pannu, vice-chairman) and Carson (Yeung, president) and see exactly where we are."

Blackpool deserved to progress based on the balance of play over both legs and will now look to clinch their second play-off final success in three seasons.

But they will be underdogs against a Hammers side who, as well as narrowly missing out on automatic promotion, swept past Cardiff 5-0 in their semi-final and beat the Seasiders 4-0 and 4-1 in their two regular-season league meetings.

Manager Ian Holloway said: "We're going to try to take on a team who finished 11 points above us and beat us 8-1 over the two league games.

"You don't get a bigger test than that but we're looking forward to it."