Isaac Hayden believes Newcastle have so far proven their Premier League doubters wrong.
But the work is far from over, and the midfielder says that the United squad, who have won 10 points and three wins from their opening seven games, are determined to keep, week-by-week, silencing their doubters.
“There were a lot of pundits writing us off before we had even started,” said Hayden.
“But we’ve shown so far that we have the right mentality, and the right hunger and desire, to go out there and fight for every point we can get.
“As a team, if you’d said we’d get 10 points by now, then people would have bitten your hand off at the start of the season.
“But, from the lads’ point of view, we’ve always had belief in our ability.
“We’ve got a really young squad – I think it’s the youngest in the Premier League – but we’ve got a lot of desire and hunger to get better and better, and, with the manager we’ve got here, he’s only going to help us to do that. It’s exciting times playing for Newcastle.”
Hayden is one of a number of players in the United squad who had question marks over their head in the run up to the top flight campaign.
Despite having impressed largely in the Championship last season, doubts remained whether he’d be able to cut it in the Premier League.
But just seven games in and those fears have been more than dispelled.
And Hayden’s not the only one – the likes of Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark, Christian Atsu and more have shown they can hold their own among the big boys.
A lot of the success United have had so far is down to the attitude of Rafa Benitez, and how much the players buy into their manager’s ethos.
Hayden explained: “That attitude stems right from the manager. His core values are to not lose games, and he’s drummed into us that has to be the starting point for whatever we’re doing.
“He’s always telling us, ‘Don’t put yourself out of games – always give yourself a chance to win’. We’ve all bought in to that.
“The lads that he’s brought in – not just this season, but also last season – all have good characters.
“We’re all hard-working and all have the right mentality, and I think that’s maybe the difference to what it’s been like at times in the past.
“Yes, you can bring in star quality, if you want to call it that, and the fans’ favourite-type players that can be world-beaters on their day.
“But if they don’t work hard and have a strong team ethic, like the rest of the lads here do, then it kills the team.
“We’ve got a really good team here in terms of the ethic and the values we have, and we also have real quality too.
“We’ve got quality on the ball, and when we do have time in possession, we’re capable of making things happen. Maybe we could use the ball a bit better, but, overall, you can’t complain.”
Hayden knows there will be bumps along the way, as United aim to retain their Premier League status – Brighton and Huddersfield goes to prove that.
But he says the squad is ready for the fight.
“There’ll be challenges along the way,” he said.
“It’s a difficult league, but you’ve seen so far this season that we can compete with anyone.
“We haven’t really conceded a lot of goals, we’ve been very solid, and that’s testament to the qualities of the whole of the team.
“It starts with the goalkeeper and the back four, but it’s down to everybody who’s out on the pitch, whether that’s the starting XI or the players that come on.
“If players are coming off the bench now, I think everyone knows the job that is to be done. If you come on, no excuses. You have to be producing and giving the team fresh legs, or whatever they need to see the game out.”