Danny Higginbotham has paid tribute to the job Rafa Benitez has done at Newcastle United.
A promoted club with minimal backing allowed by Mike Ashley in the transfer market, it has been some achievement for the Newcastle manager to steer the team to safety with a handful of matches still to play.
Danny Higginbotham points out that on Wednesday night at Wembley, the 11 starters included eight who were regulars in the Championship last season.
‘The exceptions being Florian Lejeune who had only one full season previously in top flight football, plus loan signings Kenedy and Dubravka.
The former Stoke and Sunderland defender says that you have to look at what get you promoted and ‘stick to your principles.’
Higginbotham declaring: ‘They came up with specific core values… and they’ve reaped the rewards.’
He credits all three promoted sides for staying up,only the third time this has happened in the Premier League era, the other two previous ones being:
Fulham, Bolton and Blackburn in 2001/02 and QPR, Norwich and Swansea in 2011/12.
Danny Higginbotham talking to The Sun:
It’s no great surprise that Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield stayed in the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Just look at their most recent games.
Eight of Newcastle’s starting 11 played in the Championship last year, as did seven for Huddersfield and seven for Brighton.
They came up with specific core values, and however tempting it may to abandon those with new found riches, they did not – and they’ve reaped the rewards.
Yes, you can’t just stick with the exact same team that got you up.
But you need to look at what got you promoted, stick to your principles and add just a splattering of quality to supplement what has already been successful for you.
There is so much more to a team and its success than the 11 players on the pitch.
You need to ensure a strong dressing room, that the character of incoming complement what you already have, and that there is as little unrest as possible.
If you change too much too soon you lose that togetherness and spirit.
But if you stick with a core group, the manager already knows what they are all about – their characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, and how they are able to cope with adversity.
At Stoke we had a very simple mind set for our first season in the Premier League in 2008/09 – If we can have a better identity than three other teams, we will stay up.
And if you look at Brighton and Newcastle, they have done exactly the same.
Both of them had a strong defence as the basis of their game in the Championship, and instead of looking to change the way they play, they stuck to their guns.
This year only six teams have conceded less than Newcastle, while only seven have let in fewer than Brighton.
And things couldn’t be more different for the three relegated teams this year.’