Hangovers galore on Tyneside today
CHRIS HUGHTON claimed that he'd toast Newcastle United's return to the top flight with his favourite tipple a cup of coffee. After an Easter Bank Holiday when the pubs and clubs of Tyneside enjoyed a roaring trade, it's fair to assume that many of the supporters in St James' Park last night had imbibed something a tad stronger prior to kick-off and continued their libations into the early hours. The promotion party could not have been better timed. Ten months ago, relegation from the top-flight prompted those same fans to seek solace in a few beers; proving that whatever the Magpies fortunes on the pitch, the city's publicans can usually look forward to healthy businesses through the tills. Last night, the bouncer manning the door of The Strawberry pub that stands adjacent to the stadium was turning away punters an hour and half before kick-off. But this morning's hangovers will be eased as the memories of trips to Bloomfield Road and Home Park are replaced by the altogether brighter prospect of upcoming jaunts to Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium. Early birds inside St James' Park just before 7pm heard the news over the tannoy that Nottingham Forest's failure to beat Cardiff City had guaranteed promotion. On cue, the Newcastle players trotted onto the pitch for their warm up, giving the fans a first chance to hail the newly-promoted side. The Championship will miss Newcastle for the same reason that the Premier League will welcome them their fans are second to none. The top-flight can look forward to the return of supporters who bring muchneeded noise, passion and spending power wherever they travel. But their workmanlike team are yet to convince that they are set to take the Premier League table by storm. Last night's performance was characteristic of Newcastle's promotion campaign as a whole. Efficiency and professionalism were the watchwords; testament to Hughton's powers as an organiser rather than his ability to fashion a team of entertainers. The unassuming East Londoner has been the ideal leader as Newcastle sobered up from last season's slump. Hughton's brand of football has proven too much for any of their Championship rivals to keep pace with, but it is a long way from matching the entertainment served up by Newcastle teams of the recent past. That is not necessarily a bad thing. The chastening experience of relegation and a dogged promotion campaign have acted as a reality check that should serve the club well as they gradually rebuild their reputation. Hughton is guided by expediency but has gradually won over fans who earlier in the season had been nonplussed by his appointment as manager. After the final whistle as the players conducted a lap of honour the home faithful saved their biggest cheers for the gaffer. One pitch invader fell to his knees in front of the boss. Even Kevin Nolan's spectacular overhead scissor kick that handed Newcastle a deserved lead couldn't break Hughton's cool. He celebrated with a clenched fist and a pat on the back for his number two Colin Calderwood. There were a few ghosts on the sidelines acting as reminders that not everyone was carried away by the celebrations. Midway through the first half the TV cameras picked out Steven Taylor watching from stands, one of the few people with Newcastle connections who'd be excused for having mixed emotions last night after injury robbed him of a role in the side. Alan Smith was another player denied a place last night despite playing a significant role during the season. Smith joined the post match celebrations on the pitch, tellingly Taylor did not. But as Danny Simpson and Peter Lovenkrands held aloft banners that proclaimed We're going up' to the acclaim of the crowd the bond between players and fans was clear to see. For those still suffering the after effects of last night's celebrations perhaps it's time to follow the manager's lead and pour yourself a nice cup of coffee.
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