Harper's praise for Hughton
Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper has hailed former boss Chris Hughton for the part he played in rekindling the club's fortunes.
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Hughton stepped into one of the most challenging jobs in football in the wake of the Magpies' relegation from the 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 tomorrow 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 United teams doing. The manager recognises that and that's why they really appreciate the fantastic job he is doing."
In the circumstances, Pardew's arrival at the club was hardly greeted with unbounded joy, but he has successfully won over his doubters since.
Nevertheless, Hughton is sure to receive a warm ovation from the locals tomorrow, although their respect and appreciation will last only so long.
Harper said: "He did a fantastic job here and I am sure the fans will reflect that by giving him a fantastic ovation on Sunday up until kick-off, and then as soon as kick-off comes they will be desperate for three points.
"I am sure the fans will show their appreciation for Chris before and after the game. He might even get a song during the game if we are 3-0 or 4-0 up!
"But it will be a very tough game. They have defensively been very solid recently.
"It will be great to see Chris and Colin back at the club. It will be great to see them, but hopefully we will send them home with three points for Newcastle on the board."
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.