By Dominic Toner

Ex-Newcastle player Steve Harper believes that the Championship will not be as easy as some fans are expecting.

Newcastle will be aiming to secure an automatic return to the Premier League next season following their relegation, and have been installed as favourites for the title by most bookmakers.

Harper, who had a 20-year affiliation with the club, believes that they need to focus on securing promotion and to brace themselves for a difficult campaign.

“I’ve seen some daft bets that they will go the season unbeaten but there needs to be a bit of realism,” he told Talksport. “It will be tough for Newcastle but they just have to get out of that league, whether they win it, come second or go up through the play-offs. They have just got to get up.

“We won it last time and people think it was easy because we won it by a dozen points or so but it wasn’t, it was tough.”

The last time Newcastle competed in the second-tier of English football they raced to the league title in the 2009-10 season, amassing 102 points.

Current manager Rafa Benitez has already changed many areas of his squad and Liverpool completed the signing of their midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum on Friday for £25million.

Despite the loss, Newcastle have added some experienced players to the squad with defensive trio Matz Sels, Jesus Gamez and, most recently, Grant Hanley arriving on a £5.5million deal.

They have also managed to convince Premier League players Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie and Isaac Hayden to drop down to the Championship.

Ritchie joined Newcastle in a £10million deal and will provide a good knowledge of promotion from the Championship, having experienced it with former club Bournemouth in the 2014/15 season.

The club have begun pre-season in successful fashion and remain unbeaten in their first three games. They begin their league campaign away at former Premier League club Fulham on 5 August.

In other Newcastle team news, an experienced manager has made a bold prediction about the club.