Rafa Benitez has written to Chris Hughton congratulating him on Brighton and Hove Albion’s promotion – and he’s hoping to shake his hand in the Premier League next season.
Hughton’s league leaders secured promotion on Easter Monday.
My target has always been to try to go up. It doesn’t matter the position. We just have to finish our job.Rafa Benitez
And Newcastle need a maximum of five points to join Brighton in the Premier League.
If Huddersfield Town fail to beat Fulham at home this afternoon, a win over Preston North End at St James’s Park on Monday night would be enough to see United secure promotion.
Hughton, the last man to guide Newcastle into the Premier League, is hoping his old club joins Brighton in the top flight.
Benitez this week sent a letter to Hughton.
Asked if he had spoken to Hughton, Benitez said: “Not really. I was congratulating him, but now is not the time.
“I have met him many times. Hopefully we can go up with him and meet him next year.”
The Magpies’ Preston fixture is followed by a visit to Cardiff City on Friday night. Newcastle wrap up their campaign with a home fixture against Barnsley on May 7.
“We have to play three games in this mini-league, so we will see what happens,” said Benitez, whose side were beaten 3-1 by Ipswich Town on Easter Monday.
“The other day, we didn’t play the level we normally play,” said Benitez. “We have to give credit to the team then push and push.
“I don’t think there’s a complacency.
“Ipswich was a bad game and we gave them a chance and they scored.
“We gave them another chance. These things are what we have to analyse and that is what we have done, we have to do that every week.”
Asked about potentially securing promotion at St James’s Park against Preston, Benitez added: “It will be nice for sure, but still the other teams have to do something.
“We have to do our job. We have to make sure we concentrate and win our games. If things go in our favour, then much better.
“The first thing I said was congratulations to Chris, to the team, because they did really well.
“My target has always been to try to go up. It doesn’t matter the position. We just have to finish our job.
“I am sure that everything is fine if we go up. Nobody will remember in six months’ time how we won or didn’t win, it will just be that we were promoted.
“You look at history. In the last five years, only one team went up who got relegated, so that shows how difficult is it. We are still in the driving seat.”
The Ipswich defeat followed a 1-1 home draw against Leeds United.
Benitez’s side had put in one of their best performances of the season before conceding an injury-time equaliser.
“It’s very clear,” said Benitez. “My message from the first training session this week was to concentrate on our job, to focus on how we played against Leeds. If we play like that, we can beat anyone.”
On United’s fans, he added: “The same message from day one, to keep supporting the team and stick together and we will be stronger.
“We have seen how important it is for our fans when we go away, and our fans are very loyal. We have to use those in our favour.”
Benitez will not be following this afternoon’s matches. “I won’t be looking at the other games,” he said.
“After the games, I will be told the results, but you can’t change nothing, so why suffer during it?”