Throughout the whole season, pundits and fans have proclaimed that Newcastle have a team of Championship players competing in the Premier League, but was this ever really true?
It became such a cliche as the months passed that people seemed to just believe it as a fact, but it is harsh to say that Rafa Benitez’s team were just a collection of second tier talents.
For starters, no one was saying that about anyone else in the Premier League, and it would be very hard to argue that the likes of Huddersfield and Brighton have better squads than Newcastle.
Secondly, what really made Newcastle players Championship quality other than competing in the division last season? When you look through the squad, most of Benitez’s players have spent the majority of their playing days in the top flight or another countries equivalent.
We clearly lacked quality in goal at the start of the season, with neither Rob Elliot or Karl Darlow staking a real claim to be a Premier League number one, but that problem was rectified by the arrival of Martin Dubravka, who has been a revelation since moving to the club on loan.
In defence, there was only really DeAndre Yedlin and Javier Manquillo who had not really fully proven themselves in the top flight. Despite the poor end to his Villa career, Ciaran Clark has spent the majority of his career in the Premier League, as has Paul Dummett, while Florian Lejeune starred in La Liga last season for Eibar. Skipper Jamaal Lascelles showed before relegation that he could hang in the top flight and is now in contention for England, which isn’t something you would associate a Championship player with.
Throughout the pitch, Newcastle have players with top flight experience. Jonjo Shelvey is without a doubt a Premier League player, and Mo Diame’s career in England has been mainly played in the top division, other than two seasons in the Championship with Hull and then the Geordies. Matt Ritchie showed he had Premier League quality with Bournemouth, while Ayoze Perez is arguably a better Premier League player than he is a Championship one.
The likes of Isaac Hayden, Christian Atsu, Mikel Merino and Jacob Murphy were relatively untested at the highest level, but have all had moments of joy during a brilliant season for Benitez and co.
While Benitez will take a lot of the credit for the achievements this season, the players also deserve a huge round of applause, not only for keeping Newcastle in the Premier League, but for doing it while so many people were telling them they were not good enough.