Post by Football News on May 16, 2017 23:41:17 GMT
Newcastle crowned Championship winners after late Jack Grealish Aston Villa equaliser halts Brighton
They were still cheering Dwight Gayle’s third goal when it happened, a thousand conversations in the stands sharing news of a goal hundreds of miles away. A ripple of excitement turned into a roar as Newcastle United realised they would be returning to the Premier League as champions rather than runners up.
Brighton had been seven points clear with three games remaining, but failed to win any of them. Having played a long game of leap frog at the top of the table for months, Newcastle leapt over them again in the final exhilarating seconds of a gruelling campaign, thanks to Aston Villa’s last minute equaliser. It sparked bedlam; delirious, wonderful bedlam.
When Newcastle last won the Championship in 2010, they were so dominant, they had secured top spot at the start of April. This has been different. The Magpies have been bruised and battered. They have had their wings clips, their egos kicked, their nerves tested, their talent questioned. They have done it the hard way. Somehow that made it more memorable, more special.
The late drama in the final game of the season, after goals from Ayoze Perez and Chancel Mbemba had helped brush aside Barnsley, the way a procession turned into a party, ensured this will be remembered as a vintage year.
As does the fact it has been led by Rafa Benitez. As popular as this group of players are, it is the manager who is idolised on Tyneside. The love and adulation for him filled the air, in songs and chants, in conversations in bars and pubs, in front rooms and on public transport, long after the stadium had emptied.
Newcastle is a club that has not only been starved of success. Until Benitez arrived, it was also starved of hope, deprived of excitement, devoid of dreams under Mike Ashley, an unpopular and divisive owner who appeared to revel in defying public expectations. Benitez has changed the direction Newcastle United travel in, but Ashley has to ensure he remains at the wheel.
“We could see and feel the fans and how emotional they were today, we are very proud,” said Benitez, the winning medal still hanging around his neck, before he headed off to speak to Ashley about his plans for next season.
“I will meet him next week, but it is important for him to feel the love of the fans, the passion inside the stadium.
“I already have an idea of what a successful club could look like. I think also he has an idea. I think we have to put both ideas together next week.
“I think it is the right time to talk, if not it doesn’t matter. We will be in contact to be sure we share the same ambition about how to improve, how to be competitive and to do the right things for everyone.
“At the end, I made sure every player, every staff member had a picture with the trophy. You have to remember these moments, how difficult it was.
“I hope this is only the first trophy I win at Newcastle. Going up as champions does not matter too much, but there are a lot of positives we can take into next season.”
There are but until he has agreed a transfer budget and, more importantly, the extent of his power at St James’, supporters will not allow themselves to believe the best is yet to come. It should be, though. Newcastle are back in the Premier League, but more pertinently, they are back on track.