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Hughton hails Ashley backing

Image: Hughton: Ashley praise

Chris Hughton says the support of owner Mike Ashley has helped Newcastle reach the Championship summit.

Boss pleased with performances and positive headlines

Newcastle manager Chris Hughton has praised owner Mike Ashley for bankrolling the club's attempts to win promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Ashley has proved to be an unpopular figure at St James' Park since taking over in 2007 and he unsuccessfully tried to sell the club following relegation to the Championship last year. But the businessman opted to pump more cash into the troubled outfit, using £25m of his funds into the business to cover running costs as he saw Hughton guide the team to the top of the table. The Magpies' massive £40m wage bill has done little to deter Ashley financing a return to the top flight, allowing 51-year-old Hughton to focus on assembling a team capable of gaining promotion. With 14 games to go and United five points clear of second-placed Nottingham Forest, it appears the twice caretaker manager of the Tyneside outfit has just done that, and he afforded the much-maligned Ashley some rare praise. "That's an indication of where we are at this moment," said Hughton. "We are a club in this division with a very high wage bill, and that's something we have all been aware of. "You have got an owner who is still having to put money into the club and that's reassuring because at the moment, what we want to be doing is concentrating on the football. "There are going to be issues that have to be addressed, and the owner is addressing them." United's fine form on the pitch has finally generated some positive headlines for the Magpies, who had to endure a humiliating fall from grace when they tumbled out of the Premier League. And Hughton said he was grateful to have the spotlight on his charges for the right reasons. He went on: "That's what we always wanted, but the only way the headlines were going to go from the front pages to the back pages was if we were doing well enough as a football team. "That we knew, and the fact we have done well enough so far this season, it's certainly pleasing that most of the press coverage has been about what we are doing on the football pitch." Meanwhile, Hughton revealed he could try to extend the loan deal of Chelsea full-back Patrick van Aanholt The Dutchman - on a month-long deal from Carlo Ancelotti's side - has provided cover for the injured Jose Enrique but is due to play his final game at Watford on Saturday. But Hughton said he is in talks with Chelsea about the possibility of keeping the 19-year-old in his ranks for a longer period. The manager said: "The agreement we had with Chelsea is that it was for a month, so at this particular moment, his loan period finishes after the Watford game. "I am in dialogue with Chelsea - whether that changes slightly for a little bit longer, that's something we will ascertain, but at this moment, the agreement we had was very much until after this game. "We have been delighted with him and we would like to think he will go back to Chelsea having learnt and become a better player than when he came here."

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