After just one season, Newcastle make their return to the Premier League and look to put past disasters behind them. A successful Championship-winning campaign gives the Toon the perfect springboard to attack the Premiership and make their mark their term. Survival will be manager Chris Hughton’s first priority, with anything else a bonus. It won’t be easy, but Newcastle have more than enough in their locker to complete the task. Here are five things Hughton will have to do to ensure Newcastle’s return to the top flight isn’t a short-lived one…
1: Keep last season’s team spirit – This is arguably Hughton’s biggest success whilst he’s been in charge at Newcastle. He’s brought a team spirit that is evident throughout the squad and was clearly lacking when the Magpies perished last time round. This will be harder when you’re losing more than you win, but will be key to a successful season. This will require players who could possibly rock the boat, such as Joey Barton and even Andy Carroll, to be kept in check, while if a controversial figure such as Hatem Ben Arfa joins (something that looks unlikely) the team’s harmony mustn’t be disrupted as a result.
2: Learn how to bounce back from defeats – This is something that Hughton himself mentioned on Goals on Sunday. In the upcoming season, Newcastle will find themselves in a rut at one time or another where they can’t buy a win for love nor money, and this is when Hughton will earn his corn. Bouncing back from defeats is essential and is something they couldn’t do in 2009, as they went for weeks and weeks without winning. Keep picking up three points every now and then and they’ll be able to keep themselves out of the bottom reaches of the table, and the next point is key to that.
3: Make St James’ Park a fortress – Newcastle achieved quite a feat last season – they managed to remain unbeaten at home in the Championship, and once again they’ll need to make St James’ Park into a fortress. Their home form will be the difference between survival and the unthinkable and home victories will need to be frequent occurrences. Given the magnificent support Newcastle can enjoy at home from the Toon Army, if the Magpies can get on a good run at home then the points will start rolling in. Add in the odd impressive result away from home and it will be mission accomplished come May.
4: Keep faith in Hughton – Not something that Chris can do himself, but Chairman Mike Ashley must bring stability to Newcastle and stick with Hughton, even when times are tough. It’s no consequence that when Newcastle were relegated they worked their way through their fair share of managers. From Kevin Keegan and Joe Kinnear, to Alan Shearer and Hughton himself, the Newcastle team was never settled and this showed in their performances on the pitch. Newcastle will struggle at times, that’s inevitable, but the fans must have realistic expectations and Hughton must be given time by Ashley to complete the task at hand.
5: Persuade Ashley to buy in January if needed – If things aren’t going as planned and come January, Newcastle find themselves in the middle of a dog-fight to survive, then it’s vital that players are brought in to freshen up the squad. Hughton did this to good effect last season, with the signing of Wayne Routledge in particular adding impetus to Newcastle’s play. In an ideal world Ashley would open his cheque book now and sign a couple of players, but if he doesn’t then Newcastle don’t want to find themselves at the end of the season thinking ‘if we’d just rolled the dice things could have been different’.
As long as Hughton does these things and Newcastle’s big players stand up to be counted, then the Magpies should have enough quality to finish above three other teams at least. Is there anything else that the Newcastle manager, players or chairman will need to do?