It has been a long and arduous journey for Newcastle United in the Championship this season, but they have finally secured promotion back to the top-flight. After a run of two wins in eight matches, everybody connected with the club were growing more nervous and it was important that they got the job done against Preston North End. The first 45 minutes were far from comfortable, but the Magpies ran out 4-1 winners in the end and confirmed their place in next season’s Premier League. Here are three things that we learnt:
Newcastle United have returned to where they belong
This will be widely talked about as it was the main story to emerge on Monday night. Regardless of the mixed views held about Newcastle United, the Premier League has been a poorer place without them this season. The Evening Chronicle reported last summer that Jose Mourinho was happy that Newcastle wouldn’t be in the Premier League this season and that says everything about the stature of the club. When things are going well at St James’ Park, it is one of the most difficult places to go in the country. This season hasn’t been perfect, but they have taken their first step in their recovery and they will pose a real threat next season.
In Rafa Benitez, they finally have a manager to guide them back to former glories. Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson are both prominent managers of the past, but the Spaniard could go on to match their achievements over the coming years, if he is backed by the board. The fan-base have been re-connected with their club over the course of this season and Benitez is the reason for that. At times, they have struggled in the Championship, but their style of play will be better suited to the Premier League. Their second goal tonight displayed how devastating they can be on the counter-attack and that is something that we will see a lot more of next season.
Enjoy tonight – but there is a lot of work to do this summer
They have had a great season and Benitez put together a squad good enough to achievement promotion at the first attempt. However, tonight underlined that further investment will be required this summer. Their defence was far from convincing and they will need to address that this summer, as they will face much better attackers next season. Jamaal Lascelles has been a real leader this season, but doubts remain about his ability to play at the highest level. Under Benitez, he has the right manager to help him fulfil potential and supporters will be hoping that he adjusts quickly to the Premier League.
Only Ciaran Clark, Jonjo Shelvey, Isaac Hayden, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle have done enough to earn a starting place next season. The rest of the places will be up for grabs and there is no room for sentiment as they aim to push on to the next level. Benitez will know the size of the task ahead of him and he will be confident that he is able to do what is required. It is imperative that he is given the assurances that he needs to stay on in the job as nobody is better qualified to consolidate them in the Premier League.
Rafa Benitez has fallen in love with Newcastle United
After the final whistle, Rafa Benitez walked around the St James Park pitch, celebrating with his players while soaking in the adulation from the stands. It was the look of a man who was relieved and delighted to have achieved what he had set out to do since the club’s relegation was confirmed last season. It was a huge surprise when the Spaniard decided to stay and lead the promotion hunt. There were many who doubted whether he was capable of managing in the Championship, but he has proven them wrong and he was understandably delighted when the triumph was finally confirmed.
He was quick to shake the hand of everyone working for the club, from stewards to the players and it was clear that he wanted them all to be involved in the celebrations. Although he refused to announce whether he is going to stay next season, anybody watching tonight can see that he has a connection with the club. Benitez believes in the potential of the club and wants to be the man to unleash it. Based on the support he has received from the supporters and his achievement this season, Mike Ashley would be making the worst decision of his tenure if he doesn’t give the Spaniard what he wants.
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