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Alan Shearer explains why the next 12 months are vital for Newcastle United

Former Newcastle player Alan Shearer as he arrives for the Premier League Legends of Football charity event

Alan Shearer believes Newcastle are entering a vital period.

Former Newcastle player Alan Shearer as he arrives for the Premier League Legends of Football charity eventAlan Shearer

Newcastle legend Alan Shearer has told BBC Sport's Premier League Show that he thinks the next 12 months are key for the Magpies.

Newcastle suffered relegation to the Championship at the end of last season, but managed to keep hold of manager Rafael Benitez as well as a number of key first-team players, whilst they also splashed out for a host of new signings over the summer in a bid to mount a push for promotion.

So far, it's all going well for the Magpies; Newcastle have won each of their last eight Championship games following Sunday's 2-0 win over Leeds United, and now sit five points clear at the top of the table.

Newcastle are unsurprisingly the hot favourites to win the Championship title, with some fans allowing themselves to look ahead to next season's Premier League campaign.

Dwight Gayle celebrates scoring the third goal for Newcastle UnitedDwight Gayle celebrates scoring for Newcastle United

Ahead of this weekend's game with Blackburn, Newcastle legend Shearer has spoken to BBC Sport's Premier League Show, suggesting that the next 12 months is a key period for the club.

Former striker Shearer suggested that Newcastle have a world class manager in Benitez, and the Magpies can't afford to waste the Spaniard, who Shearer believes is 'an iconic figure' having forged a great reputation in management.

Former Blackburn Rovers player Alan Shearer introduced to the crowd ahead of the gameAlan Shearer

Shearer added that Newcastle must back Benitez or he'll leave the club, and the Magpies would then be back to square one of being in turmoil and going through managers.

"I think this is such a key period for Newcastle, the next 12 months," said Shearer. "They've got an iconic figure, a world-class manager, who has achieved almost everything in the game that you can, to have him at Newcastle and to waste that...they now have to back him, or once they get up, they have to back him, otherwise he'll be off - and we'll be back to square one," he added.

What do you think of Newcastle's prospects under Benitez?

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