Rafa Benitez was happy to prove his doubters wrong after returning Newcastle to the Premier League one year after they were relegated.
It was a mild surprise when Benitez, who has previously led Liverpool and Real Madrid, agreed to stay with Newcastle in the second tier, and there was no guarantee he would be successful after failing to keep the Magpies in the top flight in 10 games in charge in 2015-16.
But Benitez could smile after Newcastle secured their promotion with an emphatic 4-1 win over Preston North End on Monday, ensuring a place in the top two of the Championship this season.
“It was really good and I’m really proud of everyone. I want to congratulate all players, staff and fans,” he said.
“We knew it was difficult at the beginning. They said: ‘Rafa doesn’t know about the Championship.’ It was tough but the hard work of the players and support of the fans made it easier.
“It is not easy to go up first team. In the end 88 points you can’t argue, some games were better than others but we are there.”
The Spaniard has helped re-unite the club with its fans and after he was greeted as a hero as he walked on to the pitch on the final whistle, he said he had made the right decision to return.
“The fans have been amazing with me,” he said. “For loyalty, for everything it means to be at a top side like this with the city behind, I decided to stay.
“Now I am even more happy than before to have made this decision, and really proud and really pleased.”