CHRIS Hughton has paid tribute to Newcastle United fans for the reception he got on his return to St James’s Park.
Hughton was warmly welcomed back to the stadium yesterday with his Norwich City side.
It was Hughton’s first return since his controversial sacking as Newcastle manager in December 2010.
And his contribution to the club’s revival – he guided the team to the Championship title in 2009/10 – hasn’t been forgotten on Tyneside.
Hughton’s name was chanted early in the game, and he was applauded on to the Norwich team coach after the match.
The reception touched Hughton, who forged a close bond with supporters during his tenure.
“It was always one that I was looking forward to,” said Hughton. “The reception was excellent, and I was absolutely delighted with that.
“What I wanted it to be was an even better day, and an even better day would have been for us to get a result that, I think, on the balance of play as the away team, we probably deserved.”
Hughton fashioned a hard-working and committed side during his tenure at United.
And Norwich proved resolute opponents at St James’s Park, with his successor at Newcastle, Alan Pardew, admitting his team found it tough going.
Demba Ba gave United a first-half lead, but Papiss Demba Cisse missed a penalty before the interval, and United had to defend deeply, and in numbers, to keep their narrow advantage.
“You want a champagne performance, but it didn’t come,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“In the first-half, I actually thought we were very good.
“It was against a side that were committed and organised – as you would expect against Chris Hughton’s team.
“I think the desperation of the three points that we wanted told in the second half – we got edgy and a bit deep.
“We lacked a bit of ambition to get the second goal, and in the end it was a grinded result.”
The result saw United move up to 10th place in the Premier League.
“I think they know we aren’t playing really well,” added Pardew.
“I think we’re missing some time on the training ground.
“We are going from game to game at the moment.
“But we’ve got eight points, and we’d have taken that at the start of the season.”