Why Newcastle are EXACTLY where they need to be at this stage of the season

Chris Hughton
Chris Hughton

Newcastle United are EXACTLY where they were the last time the club won the Championship.

The club takes on league leaders Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium tonight.

Newcastle are a point behind Chris Hughton's side ahead of the game.

READ MORE: Rafa Benitez is considering starting this Newcastle player against Brighton

But United have the same points haul as they did after 33 games in the 2009-10 season, when Hughton led the team to the title.

Rafa Benitez's side have 70 points, though the class of 2016-17 have won two more wins than the side which Kevin Nolan led back into the Premier League.

At this stage of the season the team Kevin Keegan guided to promotion in 1992-93 had one more point.

Asked about the team which went up in 2010, Newcastle manager Benitez said: "They had a lot of good players – strong characters and leaders – but I still think this division is more difficult now than it was.

"Everybody is spending money now. Everyone knows how important it is to be in the Premier League."

Hughton – who kept the core of the team which went down – himself acknowledged that the league had got tougher in an in-depth interview five years after he was controversially dismissed at St James's Park.

And Benitez says relegated teams must now "build something new" in the division.

"If you see the names they had, the characteristics of the players, they were a Premier League team," said Benitez.

"That is obvious. Now, when you are relegated you have to lose some good players, get rid of some players and you have to build something new.

"They didn’t really bring anyone in until the January. They kept the same core."

Benitez has a lot of respect for Hughton – and the job he is doing at Brighton.

"I know Chris Hughton," said Benitez. "I’ve met him a couple of times. He is a great manager and a nice man, but we are not friends."