Despite steadying the ship at Newcastle and leading the club back to the Premier League after the incredible Keegan-and-Kinnear season, Chris Hughton still finds himself under pressure at Newcastle.
Despite leading his team to the Championship title last season and steering them to their current position of ninth in the Premier League, Hughton has found himself the subject of intense, if unfair, speculation that defeat at home by Sunderland in Sunday's north‑east derby would lead to his dismissal.
Things became so heated that within minutes of an essentially reserve Newcastle side losing Wednesday night's home Carling Cup tie to Arsenal 4-0 the club issued a statement, albeit unsigned, reaffirming their support for Hughton. "Chris is our manager and will remain our manager and it is our intention to renegotiate his contract at the end of the year," it said.
The statement was in response to three home league games in which a solitary point has been collected from meetings with Blackpool, Stoke and Wigan and the decision of bookmakers on Wednesday to suspend betting on Hughton's possible departure. It was intended to kill a fog of rumour swirling around Tyneside.
This gesture has proved only partly successful. It is rare in England for managers in the final year of their contracts to have not renegotiated an extension – or at least switched from a fixed-term arrangement to an annual rolling deal – by autumn so the gossip will not disappear entirely until pen is put to paper.
The feeling within football is that Mike Ashley, Newcastle's owner, has not properly recognised the sterling work his manager has done during a time of budgetary restraint on Tyneside and that Hughton deserves a longer deal and a higher salary than at present, which has been reported as being around £300,000 a year. Most people outside the game would regard that as a king's ransom but it remains extremely low for Premier League circles.
A longer security of tenure would undeniably strengthen Hughton's authority in a dressing room in which he remains unanimously popular with his squad. Similarly, while Geordie fans were slow to warm to him, they are now solidly behind Alan Shearer's successor, preferring to blame the board for the team's shortcomings.