Hughton keeps focus on derby after he falls foul of bookies

Chris Hughton, the Newcastle manager, yesterday insisted it was business as usual as he attempted to concentrate on the visit of neighbours Sunderland in the wake of his club unwittingly fanning the flames of speculation over his immediate future.

Hughton was the subject of rumours that he was about to be dismissed in the build-up to Wednesday's Carling Cup match with Arsenal, but the speculation was seemingly driven by nothing more substantial than publicity-hungry bookmakers, sections of the media and idle gossip. After the game, the club took the unusual step of releasing a statement stressing that the manager's job was safe.

It is perhaps a sign of the times that a man who has guided his team to the Championship title and into the top half of the Premier League can find himself having to reiterate that he will still be in charge on Sunday, when Steve Bruce's side arrive in search of a first win on Tyneside for almost a decade.

The seeming reticence of Mike Ashley to open talks on a new contract – Hughton's current deal expires at the end of the season – has created a vacuum that has been filled with gusto by renewed speculation, backed up by supposed frenzied betting activity, that the Newcastle owner is in the market for a new, more high-profile manager. The best the rumour-mongers could come up with, however, was the far from box-office Alan Pardew.

"One thing I can guarantee is that the 11 players that start will all be ready for the derby," insisted Hughton, who is not the first and will not be the last manager to find himself a human casualty of the voracious gambling industry. On more than one occasion before Rafael Benitez's departure from Anfield, betting was suspended, and publicity of course gained, by bookmakers refusing to take further money on the Spaniard's demise. On the other hand the odds-makers seemed to be ahead of the game when Martin O'Neill parted company with Aston Villa at the start of the season.

Newcastle hardly helped Hughton's cause, issuing a tepid vote of confidence that could be filed under "too little, too late". Not for the first time the hierarchy at St James' Park were guilty of being reactive. In many ways it would have been better to remain silent on the matter until contract talks are opened, rather than being drawn into a story they have unwittingly now given fresh legs to. This one will run.

Hughton found an ally in Bruce, who has in the past come close to filling the role currently occupied by the former Tottenham Hotspur defender. "When I'm told he's under pressure, or that his job is under threat, I find it absolutely ridiculous," Bruce said. "It's the downside to what we do for living. I find it appalling that he has been criticised and questioned, but that's unfortunately what we have to deal with. For him to have to answer questions on it, I found that totally ridiculous."

Hughton, never the most natural in front of reporters, was clearly uncomfortable when asked for his reaction to Newcastle's hastily-issued statement, although the voracity with which he continues his search for a new assistant to replace the departed Colin Calderwood suggests he feels he is still in the job long-term, and rightly so.

Ashley disposed of Sam Allardyce within a matter of months after taking charge three and a half years ago, but Hughton enjoys the advantage of being appointed by the incumbent owner 12 months ago. Clearly keen to put the issue to bed, he said: "We've just been getting on with the job and preparing for Sunderland.

"It's a massive game and it's all we're talking about. My understanding is that I am manager of this football club. I'm proud of that and looking forward to a big derby game."

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'