Rafa Benitez felt a lack of Premier League experience was counting against his players when they suffered a string of defeats in the autumn, and always expressed confidence that results would improve in the second half of the campaign.
His faith has been justified, with the vast majority of Newcastle’s players having improved markedly as the season has progressed.
Perez and Ritchie have come to the fore in recent weeks, scoring a combined total of six goals in the Magpies’ last six games, but Benitez has been delighted with the way in which all of his players have gradually found their feet in the Premier League.
“What I said during the first part of the season was that some of the teams who were at the bottom with us, they had their players who could change games, players with experience in the Premier League,” he said. “It's not that some of them were better than our players, it's just because they had the experience, they could manage the anxiety, they could manage the pressure in a different way.
“We were learning, we were improving and then you could see the team today, it was a fantastic achievement against a very good team.
“You want me to say that (staying up) is like the Champions League in 2005! It's a great achievement. The difference is that when you win titles, especially if it's a cup, there are fewer games or it's just a final.
“When you achieve something like this, it's during the whole season and you can see the team progressing and improving, so I'm really pleased to see players playing every week much better, learning about what to do in difficult situations.”