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COMMENT: Big changes needed for Newcastle to survive Premiership return

COMMENT: On the 24th May, 2009 Newcastle slipped quietly into the Championship after a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa. 316 days later, and much to the disappointment of Sunderland supporters who hoped they'd suffer a liittle longer, the Toon bounced straight back into the Premiership with still games remaining.

Promotion had actually been achieved earlier on Monday thanks to a combination of other results, so the 2-1 home win over Sheffield United was merely the perfect end to a perfect day.

Newcastle's home form had all but assured the team from the North East a swift return to the big time - seventeen wins, four draws and no defeats were the perfect platform, together with only four defeats all season.

Compared to their relegation season when they were outplayed, outclassed and, much to the disgust of the Toon army, outfought this season has been one to rebuild their confidence and get back to basics.

Newcastle have clearly been the outstanding team in the Championship and therein may lie the problem. Has promotion been achieved too easily? Damien Duff, Michael Owen, Mark Viduka, Sebastien Bassong, Abafemi Martins and Habib Beye all exited St James's Park in the summer leaving the nucleus of the team which has delivered the goods.

Whilst the current team may have been good enough to coast in the Championship, that probably says more about the quality of the second tier than anything else.

Now that promotion has been achieved the question that needs to be asked of owner Mike Ashley, is does he have the money to strengthen the squad?

Let's be under no illusions, for all their fanatical support the Toon army can be unrealistic in their expectations of the team and come next season Newcastle will be one of three promoted club's whose sole ambition will simply be to avoid relegation.

Forever talking about the good old days, and what a massive club they are, won't make them happen again!

The current situation is that basically the same team that took them down has got them back up, but history has shown they were not good enough first time around - spending however may be difficult given the Magpies well documented financial troubles, although the reputed £60m value for gaining promotion should help.

Not that it is all bad news. The Premier League will welcome them back for no other reason than they can generate income for other club's.

This campaign Premier League attendances and revenues were slightly down on last season, and whilst the general economic recession is to blame another factor was the drop in Newcastle's 50,000 plus home attendances and the number of travelling Magpie fans filling the visitor's ends of the other 19 club's.

At least Newcastle have some stability behind the scenes at St James's Park, compared to the turmoil, both on and off the park, during the miserable relegation season.

Owner Mike Ashley has, thankfully, kept a much lower profile and took the club off the market in October 2009.

In another sign of growing maturity on the management side Chris Hughton was given the job of manager full time in late October and has rewarded the club with immediate success.

The club must continue to show faith in Hughton even when the going gets rough, as it inevitably will next season.

Not that Newcastle have completely shrugged off their old ways. In March of this year Steven Taylor suffered a broken jaw in an alleged training ground bust-up with Andy Carroll.

Hughton needs to ensure that discipline is maintained, so hold on you Newcastle supporters it could be a rocky ride come August.

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