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Kevin Nolan hails Chris Hughton's Newcastle 'revolution' as promotion beckons
Published : 02 Apr 2010 18:02:36
Fast forward four months from that 2-0 defeat in the Premier League by Chelsea and there is barely a murmur of recognition as a tracksuited Chris Hughton takes his seat in the dugout for Newcastle's first home match outside the top flight for 16 years. Yet it is the low-profile, almost anonymous Hughton rather than the Tyneside legend that is Alan Shearer who has proved the unlikely saviour. The Championship leaders could even clinch promotion at Peterborough on Saturday. Related ArticlesHughton wants to extend Newcastle dealBilly Davies: Ashley must spend bigNewcastle 2 Forest 0Hughton: I was right to stand by CarrollNewcastle keep their focusSport on televisionThe Geordie script had demanded a god-like figure such as Shearer in the same way that Kevin Keegan (twice), Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullit and Sir Bobby Robson had trodden the managerial corridors. By shattering the illusion that profile and stardust are prerequisites of the job, Hughton has unlocked the secret of a successful Newcastle. "Even players were saying it was like being in EastEnders," Newcastle midfielder Kevin Nolan said. "What we've tried to do is close ranks and bring it back to being a football club. "You can look back to when the club last went up in 1993 and mistakes were made from then until 2009 and some of them were major, major mistakes, whether it was transfers or behind-the-scenes." There is unlikely to be any public criticism of Shearer, who was powerless to prevent relegation, but demotion appears to have been a blessing in disguise. It sums up Newcastle's resurrection under Hughton that a 6-1 defeat at Leyton Orient in a pre-season friendly last July is regarded as the day a downtrodden club finally woke up. "Getting tonked 6-1 was a shambles, but brought a few things to light," Nolan said. "It showed who wanted to be here and who didn't. What you've got now is a squad of players who want to be here, train hard, work hard and play hard, and who want to get this club back to where we think it belongs. "The media frenzy was ridiculous. Reports saying we were going to do another Leeds sort of spurred us on. "We promised each other we're all going to be together and nobody is going to break the bond as players and staff." Nolan has played a key role on the pitch with 13 goals this season and has had an equally important part off it. Hughton's ego-free modus operandi has empowered his charges through a committee, including the former Bolton player, as well as Nicky Butt, Steve Harper and Alan Smith. "We've had a committee and if Chris has got something he wants to share with the lads he'll come to the four most experienced players," Nolan, 27, added. "It works having a third party. I'm here for them to have a little moan or whatever or I'd take their problem to Colin [Calderwood] or Chris. "We have a management that is so happy with the system. They allow us to manage the dressing room but if Chris comes in and says 'no that's not right, this is what we do', then that's it. It's finished, no matter what we say. When Chris wants something he gets it. "He is a great manager, a great fella. Make no mistake, they manage, we just play." Nolan also has the ear of club owner Mike Ashley and is not afraid to speak up for a figure reviled by some fans. "He's been open and honest with us. That kept us together. We've grown mutual respect and hopefully we can give the final piece of the jigsaw." Nolan is already thinking long-term. "This is only the beginning of Newcastle United and a new revolution, a new start for us," Nolan said. "We're not saying if we do manage to get promoted, we're going to do this or that, it's got to be a slow building process again getting back amongst that top 10 in the Premier League." Best case scenario: That owner Mike Ashley commits himself long-term to avert another regime change and heeds Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies's advice by giving Chris Hughton a £60million transfer kitty. That would allow Hughton to sign young up-and-coming players as well as a few old heads such as Robbie Keane. A mid-table finish in the top flight next season would be a good achievement. Worst case scenario: That Ashley tries and fails to sell the club over the summer, with uncertainty replacing stability. The insecurity undermines Hughton's efforts to make essential improvements to his squad on a relatively meagre £15million budget with Sunderland lying in wait to kick their bitter rivals when they are down, resulting in the first sacking of the season and Kevin Keegan's return.