Isaac Hayden is hoping for a European return for Newcastle United.
But the former Arsenal man knows the Magpies need to walk before they can run in the Premier League.
This club shouldn’t be in the Championship, it should be in the top 10, top eight in the Premier League
Hayden was an integral part of the United side that won the Championship title on the final day of last season.
And he feels like the club is riding on the crest of a wave under the management of Rafa Benitez.
So much so that Hayden believes a return to continental football and top eight finishes are on the horizon at St James’s Park.
However, he’s realistic enough to know that next season’s return to the top flight will be no walk in the park.
“Now that the manager is staying then hopefully we can move forward and go on to bigger and better things,” said the 22-year-old.
“This football club shouldn’t really be in the Championship, it should be in the top 10, top eight in the Premier League challenging for the European positions.
“But it’s about being realistic. It’s about a platform that we have built here now and it’s about over the next few years – not just next year, but the year after that, the year after that, to steadily improve, improve and get better and better and back to where this club belongs.”
Team-mate Ciaran Clark stated earlier this week that Newcastle was not only united off the park, but on it, too. That’s a sentiment that England youth international echoes.
“It’s not been the best of times over the last few year for the football club. I can’t really comment on past years because I haven’t been here, but since I’ve been here, it’s been fantastic,” he said.
“The fans have been brilliant, the manager has been brilliant, the whole club has been united and moving in the right direction.”
One thing United can take particular confidence from next season is the fact that last season’s second tier title winners Burnley remained in the Premier League, while second-placed Middlesbrough and play-off winners Hull City were both relegated.
Hayden is not certain that winning the title was the real reason for Burnley’s success.
He explained: “I think it’s more the mentality of the teams. You look at Burnley and you have got Sean Dyche as the manager and you have got the players that they have – it’s a very hard-working team, Burnley.
“They’d do well in any league because the basis of their game is hard work, tactical knowledge and being defensively strong, and that’s the difference.
“Boro had a bit of a problem in terms of management, so that can affect the group, and Hull have come up and they struggled. They’ve not really had a squad at the start of the season and they have had a change of manager, so if they stay up, then fabulous for them.
“But I think this will be different. If we have the stability and we have the manager behind us and the backing from the fans, I think it will be totally different to any of the teams who were promoted last year.”