NEWCASTLE UNITED manager Chris Hughton has dismissed claims he will need to recruit a proven Premier League striker this summer, labelling leading goalscorer Andy Carroll as the new Peter Crouch.

No sooner had the Magpies’ return to the top flight been secured than the debate began to rage about which of the existing squad are capable of ensuring the club don’t make an immediate return to the Championship.

Carroll’s 19 goals in all competitions this season have fired him to the top of the Newcastle goalscoring charts and, despite his inexperience, Hughton has hailed the uncompromising Gatesheadborn forward as a player who has the physical attributes to flourish at the highest level.

Carroll is regarded by his manager as a traditional target man and he is confident with Wayne Routledge supplying the ammunition the Magpies’ forward line has the potential to take the Premier League by surprise.

Having a reliable goalscorer will be a key factor to Newcastle re-establishing themselves in the top division.

None of the three clubs relegated from the Premier League this season, Hull, Burnley and Portsmouth, could boast a striker whose goalscoring broke double figures.

But Hughton predicts the Carroll-Routledge partnership has shown signs that it can be a crucial part of next season’s campaign.

“Andy’s a real classic striker in the old fashioned mould and when you consider he’s only a young player with the ability to develop his game.

“It’s a bit like Peter Crouch.

He’s probably 4in taller, but they’re similar – if the quality of the ball is good enough, the trajectory is right then it’s just a question of whether he can get it on target. He’s a player that has a wonderful leap. He is a very good technical header of the ball. He’s an old-style centre-forward, going back to the Sixties and Seventies,” said Hughton.

“What we must remember is that he’s developing his game on the ground. For a big man he does quite well but it is an area that he needs to continue to develop. When you get a player of his prowess – and Shola’s too – in the air, then you need to get the ball into the right areas and Wayne deserves credit.”

Alan Smith hailed the spirit that carried Newcastle to the title noting that it spread from the playing squad to the coaching team and the St James’ Park backroom staff.

“People only see a part of it on the pitch on a match day.

But there is a lot of work that goes into it behind the scenes.

Not just the players, everybody involved with the club.

And you feel really happy for them. People like (football secretary) Tony Toward and (kitman) George Ramshaw, who have been behind the scenes for many years. Then you have (physio) Derek Wright, who has been here a long time. Winning the league has not just been for the players and fans but also the people behind the scenes. The lads have really grouped together.

We’ve played for and have been Newcastle UNITED.

“It’s a city that loves its football team probably more than any other city I’ve been to.

They live and breathe Newcastle United. Everywhere you go people are interested in it,” said Smith.

“This football club is a special place especially when stuff like this is happening.

This season has put a smile back on people’s faces around this city.”