Newcastle United are back in the Premier League after a comprehensive victory over Preston North End on Monday night.
Their return to the top flight with two games in hand was in the balance coming up to half time after Jordan Hugill cancelled out Ayoze Perez’s bundled home opener.
But Christian Atsu put the hosts’ noses in front with a sublime finish to a quality counter-attack just before the break.
The second half was all Toon, with Matt Ritchie burying the penalty after Paul Gallagher did his best goalkeeper impression and was sent off.
Perez found the fourth with another tap-in to put the game beyond doubt.
Mirror Sport’s Simon Bird, who was at St James’ Park, outlines five reasons why Newcastle have turned things round and won their way back into the top flight.
Rafa Benitez stayed on as boss
Persuading the Spaniard to stay in the Championship gave the club immediate momentum on and off the pitch.
One of the top coaches in the world was prepared to ignore rivals taunting him that he’d gone from the Bernabeu to Burton in six months, because of the potential he saw, and the love shown by the St James’ Park crowd.
The power he wielded last summer in getting deals done was crucial. Focusing fans on the ambition to bounce back immediately made Tyneside a happy place. Season tickets sold quickly.
Benitez staying was a mood changer that few relegated clubs bank on.
Wheeling and dealing to make a profit AND build a team for the Championship
The scale of Newcastle’s clear-out and rebuild was impressive. Ten first teamers were sold or released, raising £74million. Nine were loaned out.
In came 12 players with Benitez choosing stars to compete at the top end of the Championship costing around £50m.
So Benitez and MD Lee Charnley made a £20m plus profit, cut the wage bill, cleared out the rubbish and got the club promoted.
Benitez should now be allowed to do similar surgery on this squad to build a top-flight side.
Dwight Gayle became a lethal goalscorer
Promotion-chasing sides need a top scorer and Gayle (above) has bagged 20 this season. His contribution was vital earlier in the campaign when United looked like running away with the title, although injuries have curtailed his role in recent months.
And don’t forget Daryl Murphy. Eyebrows were raised inside the club when Benitez spent £5m on the seasoned Championship targetman.
But it was well spent as he stepped in and got crucial goals.
Heroes emerged from the wreckage of relegation
Matt Ritchie was United’s biggest buy, and he’s arguably pipped Jonjo Shelvey as the club’s key player.
The Scotland international has chipped in with 15 goals from midfield and been brilliant.
Shelvey is also key. He’s been the focal point of the team, spraying passes and running games, and looks better alongside Isaac Hayden, who is developing into a fine all-action midfielder.
Ciaran Clark was United’s best defender, Jamaal Lascelles a good young captain, and local boy Paul Dummett a rock.
Boardroom troubles have been forgotten (for now) as fans and club unite
Owner Mike Ashley trusted Benitez last summer and handed him the power to rebuild. It was the correct decision, but a difficult one for a businessman who likes to control his assets.
In January there was a wobble, head scout Graham Carr seized back some influence, and Ashley asked difficult questions about signings that hadn’t worked.
That kind of internal tension is fine – it’s Ashley’s millions being gambled – as long as Benitez can manage it, and is handed a budget big enough to do a job next season.