Newcastle captain Kevin Nolan has revealed the "shock" felt by the squad at the sacking of manager Chris Hughton but added they aimed to make good on his parting words by finishing the season strongly.
Hughton was dismissed by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley on Monday despite guiding the northeast side to a respectable 11th place in the Premier League in their first season following promotion.
Former Tottenham manager Martin Jol, who quit as boss of fallen Dutch giants Ajax, has been linked with the vacancy at St James' Park while Alan Pardew leads the list of British contenders for the Newcastle job. But whoever takes over will have a hard act to follow, according to Nolan.
"We are all upset that Chris is going," the midfielder told today's edition of Britain's Sun newspaper. "He helped a lot of the lads here with their careers when he was a coach and then as manager.
"We will never forget our promotion from the Championship last season and we have to do what he told us. Stick together, make sure we keep the unity Chris has built up and get through this difficult period. It goes without saying we were shocked by the announcement."
Former Bolton favourite Nolan added he'd been impressed by the way Hughton dealt with his departure from Newcastle yesterday.
"Chris was gutted about what had happened. You could see that," Nolan said. "But it said so much about him that, even though he was obviously disappointed to be going, he was still telling me and Joey (Barton) that we had to make sure we had a good season.
"There was such dignity about the way he left, which is how he conducted himself while he was the manager."