Huntington impresses Magpies
By Andrew Scurr. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Newcastle United youngster Paul Huntington is expected to put pen-to-paper on a new deal which will see him stay at St James' Park until 2010.
Despite a rough ride playing at left-back against AZ Alkmaar in the Uefa Cup, Magpies manager Glenn Roeder has been impressed by the defender's development this season.
Huntington has started 14 games for Newcastle this term because of injuries to Roeder's backline, although most have been at an unfamiliar full-back position.
Roeder watched Huntington playing for the reserves in his favoured centre-back role on Wednesday and was pleased with the 19-year-old's performance.
"You could see young Hunty has been playing in our first team because he was a class above any other player on the field last night," Roeder said.
"Going back, he was one of my academy boys when I first took over and while some people may not have been sure about him, I took a shine to him straight away.
"At the start of the season, I had him pencilled in to blood him in a couple of games, but because of our injury crisis, he is into double figures.
"He has had a longer run in the first team than even he expected and he has not let anyone down."
Roeder expects Huntington to be challenging for a regular spot in the heart of Newcastle's defence next season, with Titus Bramble and Craig Moore out of contract and Oguchi Onyewu's loan deal expiring.
"He has a lot of qualities. He is 6ft 4ins, but needs to improve on his heading. He has pace and is decent enough on the ball," Roeder added.
"But he wants to learn and as a coach, I have to say he is easy to work with.
"While he is nowhere near the finished article, I expect him to be challenging our two central defenders next season - whoever they are."