Hughton with one wish for Newcastle homecoming

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesChris Hughton will return to his old stomping grounds when Norwich City pay a visit to St James' Park.

Chris Hughton certainly sounded like a man who had moved on from his shabby treatment at Newcastle ahead of Norwich City's Premier League trip to Tyneside.

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Hughton is no lover of the limelight, but the Canaries' boss found himself thrust centre stage in last season's corresponding fixture on his first return in charge of a visiting club since his exit in 2010.
The former Magpies chief's dismissal appeared a baffling call for those on the outside of the circus. Hughton's reward for salvaging the wreck of a club heading south before restoring them to the Premier League as champions following relegation the previous season was his P45 -- a decision that came barely weeks after plotting Sunderland's downfall in a 5-1 Premier League win.

Few perhaps will argue with the benefit of hindsight that Alan Pardew's Newcastle have not continued on an upward curve. Qualification for the Europa League and then a run to the quarter-finals of that competition may have contrived to explain the Magpies' lowly Premier League finish below Norwich last season, but the quality of player and the depth of talent at Pardew's disposal is undeniable.

Hughton deserves fulsome credit for setting that process in motion, but as he himself was at pains to point out this week, his loyalty now resides in Norfolk. Norwich have given him a platform to return to Premier League management. Newcastle is a place and a club for which Hughton still retains plenty of affection, despite the sour nature of his dismissal. But the only way he will enjoy this second reunion is if the visitors can check a vibrant Newcastle squad buoyed by those recent league wins over Chelsea and Tottenham.

Pardew acknowledged there will be plenty of love and affection in the air for Hughton on Tyneside from a grateful public with long memories, but it is the future and not the past that concerns him now.

Hughton is right to point out the gruelling nature of the recent fixtures against many of the leading principals in the past month or so that did little for the Canaries' points tally or goal difference. Over the next nine games they face plenty of clubs in a similar bracket. Newcastle on their good days can mix it with blue chip rivals, but they also exhibit the same vulnerabilities as Norwich and the majority of those outside the top bracket.

Norwich have failed to score in their last three Premier League tussles against the Magpies and Ricky van Wolfswinkel's on-going toe problem means they flew north on Friday afternoon minus their club-record recruit. Gary Hooper will again carry the goal-scoring burden and his head-to-head with Loic Remy could decide just how happy Hughton's latest homecoming is.

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