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BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE

St James' Park

Attendance: 49402

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Newcastle United

  • Demba Ba 19'

1 - 0

FT

Hughton deserves good reception - Harper

Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper has hailed former boss Chris Hughton for the part he played in rekindling the club's fortunes.

Hughton stepped into one of the most challenging jobs in football in the wake of the Magpies' relegation from the Barclays Premier League and presided over a mass exodus of big-name stars.

But the unassuming Irishman forged an enviable team spirit which enabled them to bounce back into the top flight at the first attempt.

He will return to Tyneside on Sunday for the first time since his untimely departure in December 2010, this time as manager of Norwich, and will do so three days after Newcastle launched their Europa League campaign with a 0-0 draw against Maritimo in Madeira.

That is testament to the work his successor Alan Pardew has done during the intervening period, but also to the foundation laid by Hughton and the assistant manager with whom he has been reunited at Carrow Road, Colin Calderwood.

Harper said: ``It was obviously a difficult time at the club, but Chris just gave everybody a clean slate and basically set out what we needed to do.

``He and Colin gave us a strategy, broke down that Championship season into little segments, set us targets and we achieved virtually every one of them.

``It can be a long season in the Championship, but Colin had experience of it and the pair of them and Paul Barron worked well together, really gelled the team and forged a fantastic team spirit which got us through a very tough season.''

Hughton was surprisingly shown the door at Newcastle with the club hierarchy unconvinced that he could take the club to the next level.

What is not in any doubt, however, is that Pardew has indeed taken the Magpies forward, as last season's fifth-place finish, which earned their return to European action, demonstrated.

Harper said: ``The manager [Pardew] has given credit to Chris in the past, and rightly so.

``But since the gaffer has come in he recognised the ethos and beliefs of everyone at Newcastle United, which was probably summed up on Monday night by making a very positive substitution at 1-0 down at Everton.

``That's what the fans want to see Newcastle teams doing. The manager recognises that and that's why they really appreciate the fantastic job he's doing.''

Pardew will restore his big guns to the starting line-up after making seven changes for Thursday night's game in Madeira, and that is likely to mean returns for the likes of Harper, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba.

Midfielder Cheick Tiote could also return to the squad after recovering from the calf problem he picked up on the opening day of the season, although Pardew is unlikely to risk him unless it is absolutely necessary.

Chris Hughton returns to the scene of his ruthless sacking insisting that he is one of the Premier League's lucky managers.

The Norwich manager takes his side to Tyneside where he will face Newcastle for the first time since he was dismissed as manager after stabilising the Geordies and guiding them out of the Championship and back into a mid-table position in the Premier League.

Hughton was replaced by Alan Pardew 21 months ago with Newcastle 11th in the Premier League.

Hughton is likely to receive the warmest of welcomes from appreciative home supporters, many of whom believe he was given a raw deal at the club.

The 53-year-old former Tottenham player and assistant manager, however, insists there will be no emotion, just total focus on trying to get Norwich's first league win of the season.

Hughton said: ``I only have one concern, to try to win a football match.

``There are no thoughts of meeting anybody or what reaction I will get. It's nice to go back. I had a really good three years there which I enjoyed. You can't afford to have other things on your mind.

``From the time I left there, all I wanted to do was look forward. I consider myself lucky. I'm manager of a wonderful club in Norwich in the Premier League and we have the opportunity to go to some great stadia and mix it with the best teams and the best players. That is all about looking forward.

``It's not a nice thing to happen to anybody when you lose your job but unfortunately it's part and parcel of the game. If you dwell on things it doesn't give you the opportunities to look forward.

``For me it's always been onwards and upwards.''

After a spell bringing stability to Birmingham, Hughton took over at Carrow Road in the summer, and while the season began poorly with a 5-0 hammering at Fulham, Norwich have not lost since.