ASTLE boss Chris Hughton last night spoke of his “incredible feeling” after celebrating the club’s return to the Premier League at the first attempt.
The Magpies were guaranteed a top-two place without kicking a ball after Nottingham Forest drew 0-0 with Cardiff.
It capped a remarkable turnaround for the club, whose 16-year stay in the top-flight ended amid turmoil 11 months ago with fans up in arms over owner Mike Ashley and his running of the club following the sacking of Kevin Keegan in September 2008.
Hughton took over the reigns from caretaker boss Alan Shearer in a low-profile summer appointment, but has proved an instant hit, leading the Magpies on a sensational season which has brought just four defeats and an unbeaten home record.
Over 48,000 joyous fans led the promotion party after a 2-1 win over Sheffield United at St James’ Park last night, courtesy of goals from Peter Lovenkrands and Kevin Nolan.
And Hughton, for one, couldn’t hide his delight. “It’s an incredible feeling, especially to do it here,” he said.
“And I think we all along said ‘we’ll take it whenever it is, at whatever stage’ but to do it here, with these supporters – there’s been a lot of help along the way, we’ve had a great group of lads that have had a real focus all season.
“It’s a real honour to be manager of this football club at this moment and to bring this wonderful support back to the Premiership.”