At the beginning of the season, almost everybody tipped Newcastle United to win the Championship this season; therefore securing an immediate return to the Premier League after their relegation in 2016.

Defeat to Fulham on the opening weekend reminded fans that winning England’s second tier was never going to be a walk in the park but Rafa Benitez’s men have responded well and the Magpies are now 11 points clear of third placed Huddersfield Town.

Newcastle’s 3-1 victory away at Huddersfield more or less cemented their spot in one of the two automatic promotion spots but Brighton’s defeat to Nottingham Forest put the icing on the cake on a very successful weekend for the Magpies.

As of March 6th, Newcastle are five points clear of Brighton at the top of the table and it is hard to back against Benitez’s men in the race for automatic promotion; especially as there are just 11 games remaining.

Dwight Gayle has been Newcastle’s focal point in attack for the vast majority of the season and the former Crystal Palace star deserves plenty of credit for his efforts in the famous black and white strip.

Only Leeds United striker Chris Wood (22) has bagged more goals than Gayle (21) in the Championship this campaign and the Magpies man is full of confidence ahead of what could be a memorable end to the season. With eight goals in his last 10 appearances, Gayle is one of English football’s in-form strikers…

Those looking to back Newcastle for the title will be looking for the best bookmakers in terms of odds but the Magpies are a very short price right now. It looks like Benitez has succeeded in his number one goal of getting Newcastle back to the top flight but supporters will want the Championship crown.

In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a major scalp but silverware is silverware and fans know that Newcastle have been by far and away the strongest side in England’s second tier this season.

Defensively, Newcastle have always struggled but Benitez has done incredibly well to build a solid unit. At the time of writing, the Magpies have the best record in the Championship and the likes of Ciaran Clark, Jamaal Lascelles and Grant Hanley have all been solid when given the opportunity.

In fact, Newcastle captain Lascelles has blossomed into a fantastic young talent this campaign and Benitez has been full of praise for his defensive star throughout the campaign. His progress as an individual has been key to Newcastle’s improvement as a team.

Can Huddersfield make up an 11-point gap? It is looking unlikely. While they may be capable of winning their remaining fixtures, Newcastle won’t drop too many points between now and the end of the campaign.

Automatic promotion is now more or less inevitable but the Magpies will be focused on the Championship crown. Given the backing, Benitez can build from this successful campaign and build a consistent Premier League side at St James’ Park.

Over to you Mike Ashley, get your wallet out and give Benitez the financial support that is necessary to keep Newcastle United in England’s top flight for decades to come…