Newcastle United started the 2009/10 Championship season seemingly in disarray.

After relegation was confirmed in May 2009, Mike Ashley didn’t renew any contracts and sold any player who he received an offer for. without a manager, Ashley then gave the job to Chris Hughton on a caretaker basis but didn’t give him any money for new players, leading to not a single buy in summer 2009.

Despite this, Hughton and his players formed a formidable combination that proved far too good for the Championship and at the end of that 2009/10 season finished a massive 23 points clear of third for automatic promotion, top of the table with 102 points – only losing four of the 46 matches.

Moving seven years further forward to today, with only 78 days before the 2016/17 Championship season kicks off, Newcastle are once again surrounded by self-doubt after the latest relegation under Mike Ashley.

For most fans everything hinges on whether Rafa Benitez stays and despite encouraging noises from the media throughout the week, Thursday brought news from BBC Sport that there is still a big sticking point, with so far Mike Ashley not having agreed the transfer budget that Rafa Benitez says is needed for a bounce straight back to the Premier League.

Despite this level of uncertainty on Tyneside, Leeds United legend Eddie Gray believes that there is no doubt that Newcastle will get instant promotion.

The former Leeds and Scotland winger is so confident of Newcastle’s superiority over the competition, he says that the other 23 Championship clubs will be competing for just one automatic promotion spot.

Leeds and Eddie Gray have plenty of experience of the Championship (last season finishing mid-table, 30 points off automatic promotion and 15 points off the play-off spots) since relegation from the Premier League in 2004 and now involved in the media, Gray has a good handle on the level needed in the second tier (plus the third tier after Leeds spent time there as well in recent years).

Speaking of Newcastle as a ‘powerful club’, Eddie Gray thinks that Mike Ashley will make sure that the Magpies are in the right place to be able to be able to get instant promotion.

Newcastle fans will find that confidence a whole lot easier to share if/when Rafa Benitez is confirmed as staying to lead the club back to the Premier League.

Eddie Gray speaking to Radio Yorkshire:

“Newcastle have all the rest of teams battling for one automatic spot.

“Their owner (Mike Ashley) came out and apologised to the fans…you don’t see Mike Ashley do that too much.

“He said that (going down to the Championship) wasn’t good enough and they are going to put it right and they’re a powerful club.”

(Find out what Middlesbrough fans are saying about Newcastle’s chances of promotion by going HERE)