THEY are the side that were supposed to be destined for the drop. The players weren’t good enough, the owner was refusing to spend money and the manager wouldn’t say whether he would still be in his position come the end of the season.

Yet with four games still to play, Newcastle United’s Premier League status is as good as secured. Cardiff City’s weekend defeat at Burnley means they remain ten points adrift of the Magpies, and while Neil Warnock’s side have a game in hand, if they were to lose at Brighton on Tuesday night, Newcastle could mathematically guarantee their safety with a win over Southampton at the weekend.

It would take a remarkable series of results to send them into the Championship now, and having confounded expectations by finishing in the top half of the table last season, Newcastle have once again made their critics eat their words.

“We’ve proved people wrong again,” said Jamaal Lascelles. “It’s another season where we’ve been written off, but we’ve proved people wrong. Pundits seem to like going against Newcastle, saying, ‘Oh, they’re not good enough’ or ‘They haven’t spent the money’, but we’ve proved you don’t need to spend the money if you’ve got a good group of players in place.

“Fulham went out and spent I don’t know how much money, and they’ve gone down. It’s about the manager, it’s about the fans and the support, and it’s about the players and how much they want it.

“We’ve got all three of those things in place, and when you combine them, you get a good team. It doesn’t matter about how much the price tag is for one player, it’s about the team and the city being as one. That’s why I think we’re so powerful as a club.”

With four games to play, Lascelles is understandably reluctant to start talking about the current campaign in the past tense. Their matches against Southampton and Brighton could influence the relegation battle, while their final home game against Liverpool could have a major say in who claims the Premier League title, so Lascelles is determined that he and his team-mates do not slacken off.

Nevertheless, with Friday’s impressive win at Leicester having taken Newcastle to the 38-point mark, the centre-half is delighted with his side’s achievements this season.

“I’d like to finish a bit higher and get a few more wins,” said Lascelles. “I don’t want to be happy just being safe. But I’m proud of what we’ve done. From me becoming captain and lifting a trophy to last season finishing tenth, and hopefully this year ending up somewhere like that, it’s very special.

“A lot of people will be looking at it and thinking, ‘How are they doing that?’ But like I said, it’s a combination of our work ethic, the manager and Newcastle as a city coming together. It’s really pleasing.”

While Rafael Benitez has made a number of additions in the last couple of years, a large proportion of the Newcastle squad helped take the club out of the Championship.

Some regard Mike Ashley’s reluctance to spend money as a weakness, but Lascelles insists spending large amounts of cash is no guarantee of success. Instead, he would like the current squad to continue to develop together under Benitez’s control.

“We know we can get better,” he said. “That doesn’t mean by signing players, it just means by keeping on listening and learning from the manager.

“We’re still getting to know the league really, not that many players have played that much Premier League football. When we gain a bit more experience, we’ll get better.

“We still need to get a bit more savvy and streetwise on the pitch. There have been some games we’ve lost through fine margins, and it hasn’t been because of a lack of quality or work ethic. If we’re winning, it’s maybe been because we haven’t got the ball in the corner or committed a little foul at a crucial moment. When we’ve got a bit more experience of the Premier League, I think that will be a big difference.”

A lack of nous was not a problem on Friday night, with Newcastle successfully seeing off a Leicester side that had won their previous four games.

“Everyone put in a shift,” said Lascelles. “The work rate was phenomenal, midfielders winning second balls, attackers running behind, defenders battling with their opponents. We’d been working hard in training, and with this team, whenever we need something, we always give 110 per cent.”