A HALLMARK of Chris Hughton’s time in charge at Newcastle United has been to deliver in times of adversity. With that in mind it was fitting his finest victory arrived on the back of weeks of debate surrounding his future.

Even now, after Sunday’s historic 5-1 victory over local rivals Sunderland, the situation has hardly improved, his future far from certain.

Since Newcastle claimed top-flight status under Kevin Keegan 17 years ago, there has rarely been a time when the manager’s position has been under such scrutiny in times of success.

Under Sir John Hall and Freddy Shepherd, the two previous chairmen, there was a willingness, an eagerness to reward success with improved pay packets. Times, however, have changed.

Hughton took the reins at a time when Premier League football had been lost at St James’ Park. His one season in the Championship, delivering the title in the process, has had a favourable impact on his record.

It should never be forgotten, though, that this was a first team coach, who had never taken steps in permanent frontline management before, and revived a morale-drained squad seemingly destined for League One.

Newcastle had no right to claim promotion last year, let alone win the title, after 18 months of absolute turmoil on and off the pitch. Hughton still delivered.

Whatever happens, he will be remembered as the manager who returned brighter times to St James’ Park. At a time when Newcastle supporters have been angered by owner Mike Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias’ moves, former Tottenham defender Hughton has gone about his work in a dignified and professional manner.

The owner has a man at the helm happy to portray the party line, even if there are disputes behind the scenes over the terms and discussions over a new contract.

But his record as Newcastle manager has increased the spotlight on his situation, with the media, the fans and the players knowing his current deal – which is believed to be small in comparison to the rest of the division – expiring at the end of the campaign.

In a football world full of madness, obscene contracts and egos, Hughton deserves a new deal for what he has achieved. Statistics show that he has won more matches in charge than any other boss since Keegan’s successful, relatively speaking, first spell in charge.

The problem, however, is that Ashley is a businessman who has slotted in to a sporting world operating starkly different to the hiring and firing world of retail.

Breaking contracts could cost millions.

Since the moment he over the club’s balance sheets from Shepherd, he has learned how the likes of Sam Allardyce, Glenn Roeder and Graeme Souness have all had to be paid off, costing Newcastle United a small fortune in the process.

As much as Ashley was culpable for relegation, he was not the only reason.

Years of over spending meant Ashley quickly realised that Newcastle had to become more selfefficient.

Hughton’s transfer budget has been slashed to such an extent that Blackpool spent more on new players during the close season, while the days of investing heavily on expensive, established names such as Patrick Kluivert and Michael Owen are gone.

Ashley has been slowly going about change, even if it upsets the supporters. He clearly doesn’t care if he is upsetting the manager along the way.

In his mind, and there is a justified argument that he is right and the majority of the footballing fraternity is wrong, Hughton should not be handed a new contract.

What if Newcastle drop alarming towards the Championship trapdoor in the coming months and Newcastle have a manager tied down to a three-year contract?

Probably the sack and a multi-million pound pay off. It is that mindset with which Ashley is clearly looking at Hughton’s situation.

If he can get to January, when he will assess the merits of the job done so far, he is likely to get an indication of whether Newcastle are likely to be in the Premier League next season. For now, though, he simply doesn’t know.