Can Benitez still beat Hughton’s 102 point promotion record?
Posted on March 3rd, 2017 | 33 Comments |
I know similar comparisons have been made elsewhere between Benitez’s current Magpies team and Chris Hughton’s 2009-10 side. However, Tuesday evening’s game against Hughton’s Brighton has finally inspired me to throw in some of my own thoughts on the matter.
As we go into another crunch game against third placed Huddersfield with 34 games gone, Benitez’s team is currently one point ahead of where Hughton’s team were at the same stage with 73 to 72 (as you can see below).
On the other hand, although the scrupulous Spaniard is one point ahead, he will need a real barnstorming finish in the last dozen games to keep up the pace with Hughton’s heroes. This is because the 2009-10 side didn’t lose any of their last twelve games, winning 9 and drawing 3 to win the Championship with an eventual total of 102 points. As strong as the current Magpies are within the Championship, and with all his trophies, it would still be a real achievement for Benitez to match or better that. Of course, the whole point is winning promotion to the Premier League, and if you were thinking of having a bet on this year’s competition, you can bet on the winner of the Premier League here. Getting back to the Championship though, it is almost certain that Benitez won’t have to beat that, as the highest total required for automatic promotion since we were promoted in 2010 is the 89 required by Middlesbrough to win automatic promotion from second place last season. Whilst nothing is certain, looking at the likes of fourth placed Leeds and Saturday’s opponents, Huddersfield in third with 61 and 65 points respectively, it looks like a similar total might be required this season.
But what can we learn from looking more deeply? Well Hughton has been a bit more obstinate and harder to beat, both with Newcastle and Brighton. Hughton only lost four games in the entire 2009-10 season whereas the current Toon side have already lost 7. Even with Brighton, he has only lost 5, and that includes two defeats against Newcastle. He only lost 5 in the whole of last season too. No manager can win them all, but Hughton the former defender is great at digging out an ugly point when times are tough. He has already drawn twice as many times as Benitez this season (4-8), and he also drew 17 last season when he took the Seagulls to a third place play-off place.
Whilst Rafa has won a couple more than Hughton and scored 6 more goals so far, he has also conceeded 4 more goals and once again we must bear in mind Newcastle’s storming finish in 2009-10. Whilst the Benitez side has scored an average of 1.94 goals to the older side’s 1.76 at this stage, Hughton’s average was 1.96 goals per game by the end of the season.
Of course, nothing is certain yet and things can still go horribly wrong, but I don’t want to think about that here! Being optimistic and presumptuous instead, if Benitez is going to beat Hughton’s class of 2010, Toon fans will have a great final 12 games to look forward to. However, to keep a place in the top two automatic promotion places, it probably, almost certainly won’t be necessary for Benitez to match Hughton’s very high 102 point total, though I think that Benitez will still want to win the Championship, and secretly want to beat that target so long as it’s still possible. Here’s hoping that he does.