Newcastle United are back where they belong after promotion last weekend brought the good times back to Tyneside, just 11 months after relegation sent shockwaves reverberating around St James’ Park.
It’s a far cry from a year ago, when they were heading out of the Premier League despite the best efforts of a certain Alan Shearer. Installed as manager with just eight games remaining, the Magpies legend could only muster one win as the team finished in the bottom three with Middlesbrough and West Brom.
Now, under Chris Hughton and without the likes of Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Damien Duff, Newcastle are back in the top flight, finishing the season with a flourish by adding goals to a steely defensive core.
Yes, this was a big club with a big budget and a strong squad, but nobody has a divine right to earn promotion. The Championship has been a graveyard for many big clubs but Newcastle have shown what can be achieved when you have continuity and stability.
Andy Carroll, Peter Lovenkrands and Kevin Nolan have bagged most of Newcastle’s goals this season, but there have been plenty of other players who deserve credit for the way they have performed.
Steve Harper may not be England’s number one, but he’s Newcastle’s number one after years of playing second fiddle to Shay Given. I think he’ll have no problems playing in the Premier League again.
Fabricio Coloccini and Jose Enrique are good enough for the Premier League and if Jonas Gutierrez is first choice for Argentina, who are we to argue that he can’t operate in the Premier League?
They have a high-class of central midfielder to choose from in Joey Barton, Alan Smith and Danny Guthrie, but there have been rumours that they are looking for a little bit more mobility with Jimmy Bullard and Jamie O’Hara already being linked to the club.
I understand Newcastle’s transfer criteria is to buy British players under 26 with a sell-on value and it’s clear the club has a different type of thought process. They don’t want people looking for a pay day; they want players with a sense of ambition.
Right around the country, supporters are pleased to see Newcastle back in the top flight but lots of people in the media are wondering what the fuss is all about because lot of those players were there when they came down.
Their home form will be so important next year and I don’t see why they can’t finish mid table. This season, the club’s stadium has rocked to crowds of more than 40,000 – 49,644 were in the ground for the Tyne-Tees derby with Middlesbrough in December – and the fans have been treated to some entertaining football along the way.
There’s no doubt that those crowds will continue to rise and help towards mid-table respectability, not mid-table mediocrity.