AN overwhelming 92% of fans are backing Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton to oversee the club’s Premier League renaissance, a Journal survey reveals today.
But three quarters of the St James’ Park faithful believe up to six new players are essential if the black and whites are to avoid the heartbreak of a fresh relegation fight.
Over 1,200 supporters logged on to the journallive.co.uk website for our three-week survey, which gave fans the chance to reflect on a promotion-winning season.
The poll appears to signal a sea change in opinion on Hughton. One fan hailed the 51-year-old, who steered Newcastle to a season-long unbeaten home run for the first time in 103 years, as inspirational, adding: “He deserves more credit than he’s received, he’s been amazing this season.
“He totally transformed the culture of the club. We’ve got the basics right to move forward again.”
Another left the supportive message: “Hughton has been extremely professional, and has made a team that looks completely together.
“His signings have been good and losses have spurred us on rather than knocked confidence. We’re very hard to beat.”
Only 8.1% of those fans surveyed questioned Hughton’s ability to inspire a top-flight revival, doubting his tactical ability and “pulling power” to attract top players to the city.
The poll reveals a dramatic turnaround for the manager since the Journal’s last online study in October, when only 35% of fans had faith in him leading Newcastle from the Championship into the Premier League.
Players also won plaudits in the poll’s man of the season and best buy sections.
Midfielder Kevin Nolan was singled out by 37% of supporters as the driving force behind Newcastle’s promotion.
Nolan, signed from Bolton in a £4m deal in January 2009, scored 18 times this season. He pipped Spanish defender Jose Enrique, with Argentine Jonas Gutierrez a distant third.
Nolan was also voted as the Championship Player of the Year at the Football League Awards in March.
“For his 18 goals on the pitch and his leadership off it, he has to be player of the season. Excellent,” one fan said.
On the subject of new signings needed over the summer to improve the club’s Premiership credentials, 73.3% believe between four and six “quality” additions to the squad are needed.
Almost half want to see strength added to the Newcastle attack and slightly over 20% would prefer extra “international class” defenders.
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust has backed the Journal’s findings. Spokesman Mark Jenson, editor of the True Faith fanzine, said: “I think that after what Chris Hughton has achieved this season he has to be given the chance in the Premier League.
“Saying that, it’s vital that he is given the tools to do the job by Mike Ashley. No one is asking for tens of millions to spend but Hughton needs to know that he will be backed to add to the squad if the right player is there. The last thing Newcastle United need is another managerial change. Ashley has to be prepared to give Hughton a chance.”
A wonder strike by Jonas Gutierrez in a 6-1 demolition of Barnsley at St James’ Park was voted goal of the season.
Page 3 - Survey results >>
Who is your player of the season?
Kevin Nolan 36.9%
Jose Enrique 32.9%
Jonas Gutierrez 7.9%
Fabricio Coloccini 7.0%
Andy Carroll 4.6%
Peter Lovenkrands 4.0%
Which area is in most need of strengthening for next season?
Best new boy?
Mike Williamson 40.4%
Wayne Routledge 40.3%
Danny Simpson 16.4%
Which was your Championship game of the season?
Newcastle 2 Nottingham Forest 0 37.6%
Newcastle 5 Cardiff 1 33.4%
Newcastle 6 Barnsley 1 13.4%
Newcastle 2 Middlesbrough 0 7.1%
Newcastle 2 West Brom 2 4.0%
Newcastle 2 Sheffield Utd 1 3.2%
How many more signings are necessary?
More than 10 1.5%
Has Chris Hughton earned the right to manage in the Premier League?
Goal of the season?
Gutierrez v Barnsley at home 22.7%
Nolan v Sheffield Utd at home 17.6%
Pancrate v Watford at home 15.8%
Nolan's last minute winner v Doncaster at home 14.9%
Gutierrez v Peterborough at home 14.4%
Guthrie v Leicester at home 8.1%