Dwight Gayle’s labelled Newcastle United’s Championship-winning season as the best of his career.
Gayle netted his 23rd goal of the season in Sunday’s title-securing 3-0 win over Barnsley.
The result – and Brighton and Hove Albion’s failure to beat Aston Villa – saw Newcastle lift the trophy after a dramatic 90 minutes at St James’s Park and Villa Park.
Fit-again Gayle came off the bench late in the game to score United’s third goal in front of another sold-out crowd.
Brighton had led the division by seven points, but they stumbled after securing promotion and Newcastle won their last three matches to claim the title.
The 27-year-old said: “It was a fantastic day for us.
Winning things is the most important thing, and the fact that we won the Championship is a great achievement. We’re all buzzing about it.Dwight Gayle
“The fact that we managed to do it in the end was a great feeling.
“It was a big thing for the players, the coaching staff and the fans as well.
“We’re thankful for the fans and the way they’ve turned up in numbers home and away. We’re glad we got there.”
Gayle says the occasion left an indelible impression on Rafa Benitez’s players.
And he had a message for his team-mates after the final whistle.
Asked where the achievement ranked, the 27-year-old added: “It’s my favourite season and my favourite end to a season.
“I was saying to a few of the boys ‘you’re going to remember this for the rest of your lives’.
“Winning things is the most important thing, and the fact that we won the Championship is a great achievement.
“We’re all buzzing about it.”
Gayle’s goal tally would undoubtedly have been greater had it not been for two hamstring injuries.
He limped out of January’s win over Brentford and returned a month later.
And the club’s No 9 was determined to play some part in the finale after recovering from the injury he suffered against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough early last month.
Gayle returned to joining just in time to put himself in the frame for a comeback.
“I’ve had some bad times with my hamstrings, and it was probably best for me to just sit it out,” said Gayle.
“But obviously I always want to be playing and to miss this last day would have been gutting.
“I’ve been doing as much as I can and the physio team have been helping me.
“I’m glad I got the last 10 minutes of the game.”
Gayle, signed from Crystal Palace last summer in a £10million deal, had set himself a target of 20 goals after arriving on Tyneside.
In the end, Gayle finished joint-second in the Championship’s goals chart.
The challenge for Gayle now is to replicate his scoring in the Premier League next season.
“The most important thing for us was to get back up, but you have your personal targets and I reached that,” he said.
“Hopefully, I can push on for next season.”