Newcastle promoted back to Premier League

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The Independent Football

Newcastle sealed a return to the Premier League tonight after promotion rival Nottingham Forest failed to beat Cardiff, guaranteeing the Magpies a top two finish in the Championship.

Third place Forest was held 0-0 at home by Cardiff and, 14 points behind with only four games left, cannot catch leader Newcastle in the standings.

It meant that Newcastle's game at home to Sheffield United later tonight would be no more than a celebration for Newcastle fans who were in dismay after last season's relegation from the top flight.

"This is a wonderful achievement and we are absolutely delighted," Newcastle manager Chris Hughton said. "That we have secured promotion with six games to spare is testament to this set of players and how good a season they've had.

"This is what we've been building towards all season and I'm delighted for everyone associated with the club."

Forest has little chance of catching second place West Bromwich Albion either. West Brom is 11 points ahead after Monday's 1-1 draw at Watford.

Until last season's relegation, Newcastle had been in the top flight since 1993, twice finishing runner up and challenging for a league title it has not won since 1927.

But the club ran into financial woes, had to sell top players and, despite consistent home crowds of more than 50,000, dropped out of the Premier League with under-fire owner Mike Ashley trying to sell the club.

Ashley has since taken Newcastle off the market and promotion at the first attempt is a major achievement for Hughton.

Assistant to four different managers last season, Hughton was given the top job on a temporary basis. With the team making a strong move for promotion early in the season, he was given a contract which means he will be in charge in the Premier League next term.

Although high earning players such as Michael Owen, Mark Viduka, Obafemi Martins, Geremi and Damien Duff left the club, Newcastle still had talented and experienced stars such as Alan Smith, Nicky Butt, Kevin Nolan, Argentina's Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez and Peter Lovenkrands of Denmark.

Lanky striker Andy Carroll has also contributed 14 league goals and the defence had a club record 20 games in which they didn't concede a goal.