Hughton salutes heroes
NEWCASTLE UNITED were assured of a place back in the Premier League last night and an emotional Chris Hughton saluted his heroes claiming promotion is his proudest moment after more than 30 years in football. The Magpies celebrated automatic promotion to the topflight coming from behind to overcome Sheffield United 2-1 at St James' Park, extending their advantage over thirdplaced Nottingham Forest to 17 points with just five matches remaining. Hughton, who won the FA Cup during his time at Tottenham and played in the World Cup with the Republic of Ireland, was acknowledged by the Newcastle fans for his contribution throughout last night's match. And he was given a fitting send off after the final whistle, as he led the Newcastle squad out in to the centre circle as most of the 48,000 fans stayed behind to pay tribute. This is right up there with anything else I have done, said Hughton, who was congratulated by owner Mike Ashley in the dressing room afterwards. You have achievements as a player that you will always remember. I have been involved as a coach at Tottenham when we have won things, but in a managerial position this is my first achievement, so this is a very proud moment. It is emotional. It's something we have been working towards. Until it finally happens, it doesn't sink in, it certainly has now. It's a wonderful achievement by a lot of people. I'm not the most emotional of people, but even for me it was one of those moments. He added: This is a massive club. We deserve to be in the Premier League. We didn't deserve to be there this season, and the table doesn't lie. But we have earned the right to be in there again and I think this club deserves to be there. Newcastle made it just one defeat from 28 matches courtesy of Peter Lovenkrands and Kevin Nolan goals after Richard Cresswell had given the Blades a 22nd minute lead last night. Promotion had already been assured because of Forest's failure to defeat Cardiff earlier in the day, but the result on Tyneside has lifted them six points clear of second- placed West Brom. He opted not to think too far ahead at what will be required for next season, claiming he only has eyes on trying to win the second tier of the English league, like the Magpies did under Kevin Keegan back in 1993. Right at this moment I'm not even thinking about next season, he said. We have five matches left, our aim is to win the Championship and it would be disappointing if we didn't win it. I have a group of lads that know the next target is to win it. We also have a responsibility for this league, teams are pushing for places and I think we owe them all that. Sheffield United manager Kevin Blackwell is full of admiration for the job Hughton has done. Blackwell had a spell in charge of Leeds United when they spent their first season outside the Premier League and claimed Newcastle's strength of character helped prevent them dropping down a further division. Blackwell said: I look at Leeds and Newcastle. People say about clubs having a divine right to be in there, teams like that do deserve to be there. They knew they needed players with heart and desire in the Championship. Players that wanted to put a wrong, right and they have a collective strength. If you haven't got the balls then you won't get out of this division and Newcastle have had balls in abundance. He also urged Ashley to keep faith with Hughton after suggestions that Newcastle could look elsewhere now that the job has been done. I hope the hierarchy here look at the job he has done, said Blackwell. I hope he is given the time. Newcastle will need to invest. They will still be one of the glamour games in the Premier League, but he has shown he can manage a big club like Newcastle. He has done a terrific apprenticeship throughout his career, many people don't think about that. Chris has had to come the hard way, when other managers are just handed jobs without having to work for them. I'm delighted for him.
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