Plymouth (a) Championship
20 mins As Danny Guthrie swung over a corner kick, Argyle's Onismor
Bhasera wandered off the line to leave the far post unguarded. That allowed Andy
Carroll to convert with a towering header 1-0
Newcastle manager Chris Hughton said:
"We got to the stage where we couldn’t shout about it from the roof tops but we were comfortable that we would go up, so for a while it has been about winning the title.
"We have been the team to beat all season, but we have kept on winning. I can’t be more proud of the players than I am now. We have been able to go to difficult places and grind out results. We have not been the prettiest at times but we have still got the results that we needed.
"The lads set their stall out from day
one and have kept to it. People were looking to see what our reaction would be
and whether we wanted to play in this league and I think we have proved we did.
"I hope the management, staff and players are given the credit they deserve - this is a very tough league and there are good players here. If you had have seen the scenes in the dressing room at the end you would have seen how much it meant. It has been very hard work, and this has been a fantastic achievement.
"Chris (Hughton) deserves all the credit he gets and I hope he receives the credit he deserves. People say Newcastle should go back up after they are relegated, but you still have to do it on the pitch. The boss has had to unite the players and manage them. He has had the expectations of fans to win 23 home games and had 23 cup finals. It is not easy.
"So Chris, Colin Calderwood, Paul Barron and all of the staff deserve the utmost credit, as do people in that dressing room – not just who were there at Plymouth, but the lads like Coloccini and Stevie Taylor and Nicky Butt. They have been big for us through the season.
"It was a special night and one we enjoyed. There are plenty of lows in football and you cannot afford to become carried away by them, but you should not be carried away by the highs either. Last season we were relegated, but this season we have only had positive thoughts and experiences.
"I had one save early on and a few throughout the game. It was a very difficult pitch and the lads deserve credit for getting the ball down and playing.
"They were fantastic hosts. I saw the girls holding up the banner that said ‘Congratulations from the Green Army’ and I thought it was very good of them to do that. They played their part and it was just a fantastic place to be at the end of the game.
"I’m sure John Carver, who’s here and is an excellent coach, had something to do with that because his connections to Newcastle are well documented. He’s a fantastic coach and I hope he gets some success because he deserves it. I’m sure all of Newcastle will wish Plymouth well for next season.
under no illusions how tough it will be ahead, but we must cross that bridge
when we come to it. We still have a job in hand in the next two games, and then
we can enjoy the summer. We then come back in July and enjoy pre-season.
“There is not a set of lads like them. Even with all the shenanigans and things that have been bandied about in recent weeks, people trying to stick spanners in the works – the lads have stayed together.
"I think it’s showed. We were up against a team fighting for their lives in Plymouth. They don’t just roll over and die, you’ve got to win the physical battle and we’ve been prepared to do that all season. We’ve done that all season.
"Obviously we’ve got
to do it with a bit more quality next season, but let’s just enjoy this one
first, and look forward to all the big boys coming back to St James’ Park next
season, all the prestige games and the buzz coming back.
"I’ve had a lot of chances here, it’s been said before, but I just want to prove it by getting out there and playing football now. Obviously, injuries have hindered that a bit, but it’s part and parcel of the game. I’m humbled to be part of this achievement and humbled to be part of everything that is going to happen to this football club in the very near future.
"Without raking up too much old ground first and foremost, I think if key players had stayed fit or available – myself included and I obviously didn’t help anyone by getting sent off at Liverpool – I think it would have made a big difference between us dropping down the league and staying up. What’s gone is gone, we’re back in the Premier League and the achievement is an amazing one.
"The lads have been magnificent. The way they’ve gone about their business this season, they’ve done it with a bit of class. All right, they’ve not been the great entertainers everyone wants to see, but who cares? We were out to win the league."
Pilgrims boss Paul Mariner said:
"They (the fans) have been absolutely fantastic to us. It's the team on the field that gets the reaction from the crowd, and we couldn't have asked for any more. The fanbase at Plymouth Argyle is extremely strong. I know they will come back if we can produce a winning team, and an attractive team."
"We will get the new field (aka a
relaid pitch), and we will be able to get the ball down a little bit. We have
got players that like to get the ball at their feet and go at people.
"I would tend to agree that Andy Carroll's looping header should have been stopped by somebody on the post. The second goal was a fantastic through ball and a tremendous finish. The lads have worked extremely hard on the training ground, on their set pieces. We do make a lot of chances for ourselves from set pieces. Our movement is fantastic.
"We do get numerous opportunities in and around that penalty spot – the second six-yard box as they call it – and we are just not clinical. My hat goes off to the lads for getting in there, but when you get in there you have got to finish.
"You can see when we get the ball down we play some decent stuff, and that's with a team that was absolutely clinging on to hope. It was an extremely high pressure environment for those lads. I know we have gone down and it's very disappointing, but I'm pleased with the way they played."
Not even volcanic
ash could prevent United from completing their title conquest in Devon,
although the grounding of planes saw some hasty re-jigging of travel plans
already disrupted by the decision to play this game on a Monday night for the
Argyle continued to threaten on a pitch that was improved from January's FA Cup tie - less allotment, more public park - but couldn't damage a United side who in some cases were clearly ailing; Fitz Hall less than fit and the Kevin Nolan having his first half technicolour yawn inadvertantly beamed out live across the planet.
Further Newcastle goals could have come in the closing stages, when Chris Hughton sent on Shola Ameobi and Leon Best in place of Carroll and Kevin Nolan. However, Best was unable to seal the win by breaking his Magpies duck, striking the crossbar with one effort before blasting another over.
Jose Enrique cleared a late effort off the line from substitute Joe Mason to preserve a clean sheet, before the final whistle sparked scenes of great celebration from Newcastle fans and players, as the point required to confirm the title was collected - along with another two, of course.
Having shouted about going "on the pitch" since the pre-season game at Darlington, United fans finally carried through their threat and staged a good-natured invasion following the final whistle.
A thin line of stewards easily breached and fans joined players on the pitch to celebrate.
For Argyle, the prospect of life in a lower division is as unappealing as it was to us a year ago. Losing home and away to the likes of Watford and Sheffield Wednesday contributed more to their demise than handing six points to us did though - as was the case for Newcastle in 2008/09.
But if there's any silver lining in the (ash) cloud, then it's the upturn in mood among Toon players and fans after a season of goals and victories against inferior opposition. Argyle can only hope that they find their level in League One and reverse a worrying downward attendance trend. Quietly forgetting about that World Cup host city bid might also be a timely action.
As for the upwardly mobile Magpies, avoiding defeat against Ipswich would complete a full season without a home loss, while victory would smash the 100 points barrier – significant achievements for fragmented team without a permanent manager who were anything but title favourites last August.
The presentation of the Championship trophy is an occasion to be savoured and the chance for fans and players to acknowledge each other's efforts turning round the Tyneside Titanic. Genuine doubts about our direction next season remain, but now's the time to shout it out....United are back.