Potential Newcastle United signings is obviously the topic that is taking up much of the close season pub talk.
Only yesterday it was claimed that Rafa Benitez is targeting five early signings, plus a number of additional loan deals, to try and ensure Newcastle have a squad capable of bouncing straight back to the Premier League.
Obviously, we all hope that Newcastle will keep the core of the team that went down, quality players such as Townsend and Mbemba, as well as others who look more than capable of doing a job in this lower division.
What about new signings though?
It is very likely that loan deals would involve Premier League players and/or ones from abroad.
However, a sensible/obvious pool of players would appear to be those who have already shown they can do it in the Championship.
So where better place to start than the players voted into the Championship team of the year by their fellow professionals.
There are actually 12 of them altogether, as Michael Dawson and Daniel Ayala received exactly the same number of votes.
The PFA Championship team of the season 2015/16
Goalkeeper – Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Right-Back – Bruno Saltor (Brighton)
Centre-Back – Michael Keane (Burnley)
Centre-Back – Michael Dawson (Hull City)
Centre-Back – Daniel Ayala (Middlesbrough)
Left-Back – George Friend (Middlesbrough)
Midfield – Alan Judge (Brentford)
Midfield – Joey Barton (Burnley)
Midfield – Barry Bannan (Sheff Wed)
Midfield – Adam Clayton (Middlesbrough)
Striker – Andre Gray (Burnley)
Striker – Ross McCormack (Fulham)
Looking at players Newcastle could potentially buy from this group of a dozen proven Championship players, we can instantly take out eight of them.
Joey Barton has signed for Rangers, whilst another seven of the 12 also have been promoted to the Premier League and will surely be looking forward to playing there, not dropping back to the second tier.
So that appears to rule out Burnley’s Heaton, Keane and Gray, Middlesbrough’s Ayala, Friend and Clayton, plus Michael Dawson of Hull.
This leaves us with Bruno Saltor (Brighton right-back), Alan Judge (Brentford midfielder), Barry Bannan (Sheff Wed midfielder) and Ross McCormack (Fulham striker).
A player who was first linked with Newcastle two years ago but United refused to meet the Leeds asking price and bought Riviere for £6m, McCormack remaining in the Championship after Fulham paid £11m.
Having scored 38 Championship goals in these last two years, Newcastle are once again linked with the Scottish forward but with a rumoured £12m release clause and turning 30 in August, whilst he would look guaranteed to add goals to the Newcastle squad it is difficult to imagine this kind of deal happening, even with Rafa Benitez now having the final say.
A midfielder whose season with Sheffield Wednesday suggests that the equally diminutive Vurnon Anita could cope with the rough and tumble of the second tier, if he adapts. A bit of a journeyman player who never really looked up to it in the Premier League but may have now found his niche – still very hard to see any interest from Newcastle when compared to the players currently at United.
Turning 36 in October, this former Valencia defender certainly appears to have the pedigree but age must certainly rule him out. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see if Rafa Benitez looks to tap the Spanish market, which has at times given excellent value to the likes of Swansea in the Premier League.
Another player most Newcastle fans won’t know much about. Similar stature to Barry Bannan, the 27 year old has had a bit of a breakthrough season, after not making great waves in the past playing for the likes of Plymouth, Notts County and Brentford in League One and the Championship. Scored 14 goals in only 38 Championship matches from midfield last season, which is an impressive stat. Maybe worth a look by Newcastle but again the question will be whether he is even at the same level as Newcastle’s current options?
Naturally, just because these are the 12 picked out last season by fellow pros, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth looking beyond these dozen players.
However, looking at the four selected who aren’t part of one of the promoted teams, it doesn’t suggest that there isn’t anything to be afraid of IF Newcastle keep most of their better players and Rafa adds a few decent signings, whether from the Championship or elsewhere.