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Can promotion bring the good times back to Newcastle?

Newcastle United side of 2009-10 (left) and the title winning team of 1992-93
Newcastle's current side (left) will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of the class of 1993 who won promotion to the top flight that season

Newcastle United's promotion has brought the good times back to Tyneside, just 11 months after relegation sent shockwaves reverberating around St James' Park.

The club's stadium has rocked to crowds of more than 40,000 - 49,644 were in the ground for the Tyne-Tees derby with Middlesbrough in December - and the fans have been treated to some entertaining football along the way.

It's a far cry from a year ago, when they were heading out of the Premier League despite the best efforts of a certain Alan Shearer.

Installed as manager with just eight games remaining, the Magpies legend could only muster one win as the team finished in the bottom three with Middlesbrough and West Brom.

Andy Carroll and Peter Lovenkrands have forged an impressive partnership
Andy Carroll and Peter Lovenkrands have forged an impressive partnership

Now, under Chris Hughton and without the likes of Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Damien Duff, Newcastle are back in the top flight, finishing the season with a flourish by adding goals to a steely defensive core.

Prior to Easter Monday's clash with Sheffield United, they had scored 77 goals in 41 games, conceding just 30.

Andy Carroll, Peter Lovenkrands and Kevin Nolan have bagged most of them and are all vying to finish as top scorer while at the back, goalkeeper Steve Harper has played in all 41 league games to date and kept 20 clean sheets in the process, proving there is life after Shay Given.

But there have been plenty of other players who deserve credit for the way they have performed, according to former Newcastle midfielder Rob Lee.

"Most of the players in the current team were in the side that got us relegated, so all credit to them because they've knuckled down," said Lee. "They could have sulked, but they've got on with the job and played very well. Newcastle have been by far the best team."

BBC pundit Steve Claridge agrees with Lee's assessment.

"Newcastle have got a strong squad and the biggest budget by a mile. People will say they should get promoted, but it doesn't always work like that," says former striker Claridge.

"The big players have shown a fantastic attitude."

Claridge says Hughton deserves "a big pat on the back" for ensuring the players have had the right mental approach but insists the supporters deserve their fair share of the praise, too.

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"The fans have stuck with them and helped make St James' Park a fortress," adds Claridge. "The home form has been fantastic. They have never had a bad run."

And what about much-maligned Mike Ashley, who has angered fans with the way he has run the club since taking it over in 2007 and even tried to sell it when opposition to his reign reached its peak?

"Ashley's got to take a bit of credit," says Claridge. "When all is said and done, he went out and bought players in January. He has taken a gamble financially, and it's come off."

Newcastle eventually clinched promotion with five games to go, a testament to the way they have dominated the Championship this season and handled the pressure that comes with being one of the favourites to make the step up.

Inevitably, such success has brought back memories of the last time the Magpies soared to promotion to the top flight.

That was in 1993, when Kevin Keegan's "Entertainers" won the old First Division with an exciting blend of football and went on to challenge for the Premier League title in their very first season back in the top flight.

"It's difficult to make comparisons between both teams," says Lee, who played in that championship-winning side of 17 years ago alongside the likes of Andy Cole, Lee Clark and John Beresford.

It's fantastic that they're back where they belong... I just hope they get the resources and the money to push them back where they were 10 or 15 years ago

Rob Lee
Former Newcastle midfielder

"We were on the up and it wasn't expected, when Kevin took over, for us to get to the Premier League. We were nearly relegated from the division the year before."

Mick Lowes, who commentates on the club for BBC Radio Newcastle, echoes Lee's sentiments.

"If you remember, the side of 1992/93 was emerging from the doom and gloom of the 1970s and 1980s," he says. "It was a side heading back to the big time.

"This is a completely different situation. After 16 years in the top flight, in the all new Premier League, the club dropped out, but now they're going back in there."

And now that they're going back, what sort of impact will they make?

It's going to be difficult, predicts Lowes, who says the club had money in bountiful supply back in 1993 and were more than capable of matching the game's big spenders.

"They were the first people to start spending big," recalls Lowes, harking back to the captures of striker Alan Shearer and full-back Warren Barton.

Shearer became the most expensive footballer in the world when he moved from Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle for £15m in 1996.

Barton became the most expensive defender in British football when he joined the Magpies in a £4m switch from Wimbledon in 1995.

Alan Shearer celebrates a goal for Newcastle
Newcastle's promotion in 1993 was followed by the signing of Alan Shearer

"You can't imagine Newcastle spending money now on the most expensive players in the world," adds Lowes.

"They are very different eras in football. Now Newcastle are playing catch-up, but back then they were leading the way."

The big question for Lee is how much the owner is prepared to put into the club now that Newcastle are back mixing it with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

"It's fantastic that they're back where they belong," he says. "I just hope they get the resources and the money to push them back where they were 10 or 15 years ago."

Whatever happens, Lowes is hoping the Championship becomes a distant memory.

"Keegan's great 'Entertainers' side was everyone's second favourite team and I don't know if they will ever get back to that," he says.

"But it's up to this side to cement itself in the Premier League. The priority is consolidation."

Reporting by Matt Newsum and Simon Pryde.



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see also
Newcastle promoted to top flight
06 Apr 10 |  Newcastle
Nottm Forest 0-0 Cardiff
05 Apr 10 |  Championship
Kelly relishes Newcastle return
26 Mar 10 |  Nottm Forest
Magpies unity 'best since Robson'
30 Mar 10 |  Newcastle
Ameobi targets final push
30 Mar 10 |  Newcastle
Newcastle 2-0 Nottm Forest
29 Mar 10 |  Championship
Ameobi and Hughton clinch awards
12 Sep 09 |  Football
Ameobi enjoys Magpies renaissance
21 Aug 09 |  Newcastle


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