Hughton deserves chance to impress
CHRIS HUGHTON has earned the right to lead Newcastle in the Premier League according to goalkeeper Steve Harper. The club stalwart hailed the manager for uniting the dressing room in the aftermath of last season's relegation when morale at St James' Park was at a particularly low ebb. After three short spells as the Magpies' caretaker boss Hughton has adapted quickly to his role in permanent control of team affairs and is almost guaranteed to be named Championship manager of the season when the awards are handed out at the end of the campaign. Nevertheless, he remains a relative rookie compared to the experienced campaigners he'll be facing in the top flight next season raising the question of whether he is equipped to pit his wits against the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. After masterminding the club's return to the Premier League at the first attempt Harper is in no doubt that Hughton should remain in charge and lead the club's top flight challenge. He deserves all the plaudits really, said Harper. He's done a fantastic job at this club, given the circumstances which are very well documented. To pull together a group of player who were very disappointed last season and unite them, and get promotion at the first hurdle then of course he deserves a crack at it, he's more than earned the right to manage this club in the Premier League. He's got to be given the opportunity to pit his wits against the best. Every manager starts somewhere he's started pretty well here in difficult circumstances. He united a dressing room and a staff to achieve promotion back to the Premier League. If that doesn't warrant a crack at the job, I don't know what does. We started off the season aware we weren't PL players and in one way we're still not but it feels good to have done it. Memories from Villa Park last May are still pretty vivid but this more than makes up for it. Last year was desperately disappointing but we're back up now. The mental scars are still there of course. I'll never forget that, it's something as a player you can never forget. It's a motivation, I'm sure there's a lot of players in the dressing room who have used it as that to achieve what we have. Asked if he regarded the prospect of once again facing strikers of the highest quality, Harper preferred to bask in the joy of promotion. I'll start thinking about that on July 5, said the Easington- born keeper. There are massive clubs in there and it's going to be tough when the time comes but I'll think about it nearer the time we've got five games to go we'll enjoy the next few days. It is just great to finally get it done. Watching the Forest game in the dressing room before, I had to go and warm up before the end, the lads came out and came over to tell me. It was great, a fantastic achievement to get out of what's a very tough league with six games to go. People can say what they want about this division, it's had its knockers but mentally and physically it's a very, very tough league with some very good players in it so to get up with six games to go is a big achievement. There's a feeling of relief that it's finally done. We had a good start and then got reeled in. Forest and West Brom were right on our tails and people always expected us to stay in there so the pressure of being up there is something we had to get used to. West Brom can still catch us but our first aim's been achieved now our next aim is to win the Championship.
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