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Blades win key to push for promotion
Published : 03 Apr 2010 09:49:38Rss feed
AS Newcastle United stand on the verge of a return to the Premier League, Chris Hughton feels such an achievement would have been impossible to predict a year ago. Hughton sat alongside three different managers in the dug-out at St James' Park last season, when Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear and finally Alan Shearer all had spells in charge. But even before the events that followed in the summer, when owner Mike Ashley failed to sell the club but did reduce the wage bill, Hughton felt automatic promotion might have been a hard aspiration to fulfil. He was not even sure he would still be with the Magpies but now, sitting proudly as the manager in a pre-match press conference, the normally reserved Hughton allows little drips of satisfaction to drip through. I knew I'd be around when Alan Shearer came in for those last eight matches in the Premier League because I was still under contract, he said. I knew I'd be staying and working with them through to the end of the season, what I didn't know was what the future was going to hold after that. I knew that whatever happened, happened. If someone had said 12 months ago we'd be in the scenario we are in now I wouldn't have believed them. It's how football is, not just here but at other clubs too and it's the beauty of the game in its unpredictability, there's no surprises, it's a well used term and it's something that's worked out in our favour. Victories at Peterborough United today and at home to Sheffield United on Monday will seal their top-flight return. If they achieve the first part of that double and Bristol City defeat Nottingham Forest at Ashton Gate, promotion will be assured by 5pm today. It would be a wonderful achievement, said Hughton. Certainly if we're able to do it then it does bring back memories of the summer and everything that went on, with the insecurities we were all aware of so because of everything it'd make it more special. There were always uncertainties because of the position we were in, that was throughout the club with players coming in and going and that applied to the general staff with the implications of relegation. All of those things we had to deal with. Newcastle have lost just one of their last 26 Championship fixtures, they are yet to lose at home after 20 matches and they sit four points clear of second-placed West Brom with a game in hand. Hughton may have thought automatic promotion was a remote possibility eight months ago, but he highlighted the 1-0 victory at Sheffield United in November as when he began to change his mind. It was a really big game because it showed we could go somewhere that's very tough and get a result, he said. The team showed everything that day, a real resilience not to get beaten. I knew we had a good squad on paper and I was generally happy with it. What we were up against were seasoned Championship teams used to the rigours of this division. We started well in the first game of the season which was probably one of the pinnacle games where everybody was looking at us to see how we were going to do, the body language of the players, how many of the players wanted to be there at the stage because the window hadn't closed. Most people were, I wouldn't say surprised by the endeavour shown that day, but I think they saw this was a team prepared to have a real good go and one that could churn it out week-in, weekout.
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