Assuming that an Everton side in free-fall and Watford team already sucking cocktails through bendy straws don’t scupper Sunderland’s survival bid at the final hurdles, Newcastle will be playing their football in the second tier from next August (and even if those teams do us a massive favour we need to defeat a Spurs side battling to finish above despised rivals Arsenal).
Looking at the current Newcastle squad; who, in an ideal world, should be retained for the battle to return to the top-flight?
Here I analyse those worth investing in and those who need to be bombed out in order to avoid NUFC following in the soiled footsteps of Leeds United or Blackburn Rovers.
Rafa Benitez – Stay (Please!)
A no brainer. Benitez has somehow forged a compatible defence out of ostensibly the results of a failed LSD experiment. He has figured out a formation that neutralises the flaws of a strangely assembled squad. He is the best Manager in terms of organisation that I have ever witnessed at the helm of our club, although his teams are likely to be far removed from the flair of those assembled by Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan.
Tim Krul – Sell
The one position in the squad that looks to have strength in depth is that of the goalkeepers. Tim Krul, despite his long-term injury woes, is still likely to command a reasonable fee, and letting him depart for £6m or so would assist in balancing the books without significantly weakening the squad.
Karl Darlow – Keep (Back up to Elliott)
Looks a good choice as backup to Rob Elliot, particularly whilst the Irish custodian is on the sidelines. Has done really well since his PL debut faux-pas at the Hawthorns, and at 25 has his best years ahead of him.
Rob Elliott – Keep (First choice GK when fit)
Ireland international would be heading to the Euros if fit, following sparkling club form. Started the campaign as a player with seemingly no future on Tyneside, but assuming he returns to form and fitness after recovering from serious knee troubles, he will be an indispensable part of the squad for the next few years.
Freddie Woodman – Keep (Backup to Darlow)
One of the few promising youngsters in a wafer thin development squad, there is some conjecture over whether Woodman’s current deal expires this Summer or in 2017. Either way, he should be blooded against Spurs if safety isn’t possible, assured of his long-term future and offered a lengthy deal to match his potential. We can’t afford to lose another Fraser Forster.
Fabricio Coloccini – Sell
Like expired almond milk, Colo was once a healthy, delectable treat for the senses. His legs have gone and the decision to offer him a new deal rather than cash-in last summer when Pardew came-a-knocking looks more ill-advised by the week. Brilliant in the Championship seven years ago, he now moves with all the grace of a pigeon soaked in treacle and given acupuncture with knitting needles by Ray Charles’ twitching corpse.
Steven Taylor – Release
He is dire. Not Kieron Dyer, just dire (that gag only works when spoken I’ve just realised.) Please don’t give this man a new contract like you mental cases did with Sammy Ameobi! Fit for about 4 matches a season, Taylor was once rated as a future fixture in the England team. Now in his 30’s, he is a fixture in A and E. Please go.
Chancel Mbemba – Keep (First choice DC)
At 21….. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. Yes, 21 obviously, Chancel has made some inexperienced bloopers this season, but for the most part has looked a good athlete who can develop into a quality ball playing defender. The issue may be other suitors, with Arsenal recently linked. I hope he stays, as at 21 (or 24, 26, 28) he has huge upside.
Jamaal Lascelles – Keep (First choice DC)
Titus Bramble without blackouts. Has pace, reads the game well, and most importantly looks like he gives a damn. A team of players with the attitude of Lascelles would go a long way to helping us return to former glories. His vocal dressing down of the dressing room sparked a turnaround that occurred too late.
Darryl Janmaat – Sell
Dutchman has the talent to be one of the prime full-backs in the Premier League, and when on form adds a dimension to the team. He doesn’t defend well though, and is totting up the days before he can get the hell out of his current contract and join a club to match his ambitions. Has really gone off the boil since Christmas, with his injury counter intuitively benefiting the team.
Vurnon Anita – Keep (First choice RB)
Diminutive utility player has proved a lot of people wrong in recent weeks. Was Newcastle’s best player against Villa, as he has been for much of an unbeaten five match sequence. Definitely not equipped to be a destroyer, but has the pace and technical ability to contribute well down the sides.
Paul Dummett – Keep (LB rotation with Mbabu/back up CB)
Having reportedly agreed an extension to his contract there is no way that Dummy is going anywhere soon, he is one of the few who truly loves the club. It’s true that he is very limited as a player, and rarely ventures forwards to any effect, but he could be our Danny Simpson type player in the Championship, a level where he won’t face the cream of the crop.
Massadio Haidara – Keep (Left wing/back up left-back)
Only 23 years old with natural ability, but lacks responsibility for a full-back. Looks a threat going forward, much like Didier Domi did in the early 2000’s, so why not switch him to the wing and see how he does there? Even as an impact sub he could have a role when fit.
Kevin Mbabu – Keep (Left-back rotation with Dummett/RB back up)
Starred in a couple of matches before injury wrecked his season. Probably the most naturally gifted full-back on the books, Mbabu must be offered a new deal and used initially in rotation with the experienced Dummett, eventually taking his spot at LB with the Welsh international moving into the middle.
Curtis Good/Lubo Satka – Release
Neither is good enough for the Championship. Good is always injured and Satka can’t even get onto the bench of League Two’s bottom side York City. Both are young, but they’re simply not up to it.
Jamie Sterry/Callum Williams/Liam Gibson/Macaulay Gillesphey – ?
I know nothing about these players save for a few short clips I’ve seen, so please let me know in the comment section below!
Cheick Tiote – Sell
Chinese interest in January came to nothing, with Tiote finishing his sixth season at the club in decent nick. Despite this, his best years are distant memories, and he has been angling for a move away for years now. His stock may have plummeted since that thrilling Arsenal volley, but with his wages off the bill and a small amount of cash, we might be able to keep hold of better long-term prospects.
Henri Saivet – Sell
What was the point of this? Another case of a scout signing a player the manager didn’t want. Neither manager he’s had on Tyneside has rated him. Saivet is about fifth choice in a holding midfield role, that’s what £5m buys you; back up to back up to back up. Calamitous transfer deal on the face of it.
Jack Colback – Keep (Utility player)
The ginger Pirlo? No. Colback is the Caucasian Amdy Faye. He offers very little going forward and hasn’t looked dynamic in any way during this campaign. He is however cut out for a lower league, and cares about the club. For those reasons he could be pivotal in a promotion challenge, much like Alan Smith was all those years back.
Moussa Sissoko – Sell
He arrived in a blaze of glory, dictating terms at Villa Park from an advanced position, as he tore past the home side’s defence, setting up a Cisse goal in a 2-1 away win. More than three years later and the subdued shell on show at Villa Park may have looked like the same player physically, but he wasn’t. Like a punch drunk boxer, the 26 year-old French International seems to have taken too much punishment here and needs to move on, hopefully for £10m.
Gini Wijnaldum – Sell
No player has been as disappointing for us since Christmas as Georginio Wijnaldum. A brilliant finisher, he had shown a combination of skill, pace and workrate that had fans salivating at the prospect of a 20 goals a season midfielder. Instead he has become an afterthought, an expensive impact sub hiding under the coattails of Mother’s apron, begging for the bigger boys to run with the ball. A bottler.
Siem De Jong – Keep (First choice Attacking Mid)
He could be talismanic if he’s willing to rebuild his career in a lower league. The nadir of his career has been these past couple of seasons on Tyneside, but a run of better fortune out of the spotlight could equate to 15+ goals for the former Ajax man as we rise from the ashes… Or he’ll injure himself by sitting on a toilet brush or whatever farcical scenario occurs next in his ill-fated tenure here.
Jonjo Shelvey – Keep (First choice playmaker)
All the ability in the world does not make a good player, and if you have the heart of a swamp cabbage you probably aren’t going to make it very far. Jonjo is too good in theory to waste time in the Championship, but where can he go? Nobody will sign him at this point, even if he had a release clause. He’s on big money and hopefully there’s a relegation reduction in his deal, he can be a catalyst in any revival if he gets his head together.
Gael Bigirimana – Keep (no takers)
One time wonderkid rarely started a game on loan for a flagging Coventry City team. His confidence has been torpedoed and it may be that we’re forced to keep him on the books until his deals runs out next year. A tragedy for a player who as a teenager had the world at his feet.
Haris Vuckic – Sell
A 23 year-old trailblazer – in the sense that he was superb at 16 and has become less effective every year since. He was probably dynamite when he was 11. Sell if any takers, consider releasing if not. Lumbering attacker only really shone in the Scottish Championship, a league the equivalent of drunks stumbling around the park on a Sunday afternoon.
Andros Townsend – Keep (Right Wing – Beg, plead, fly him to matches…)
Our best attacking player apparently has an £8m relegation release clause, something that is a kick in the crown jewels for the club. He is too good to play in the Championship, but could we somehow persuade him to give it one year? He fits in so well, the fans love him, and in the absence of any major international tourney in 2017 he could help us up and then make his case for the following year’s World Cup. It makes sense Andros!
Sammy Ameobi – Sell
At 24 years of age he can barely get a game for Cardiff City. Not a bad side admittedly, finishing eighth in the Championship this season, but his contribution has been negligible, with one goal and one assist in 22 league games. The thought of this carthorse replacing Townsend in the squad next season aptly illustrates the next fall from grace.
Florian Thauvin – Sell
Inter Milan are apparently interested. Can we have our £11m back please? No? 11 million Euros? No, 1 million? No. Ok, Sports Direct pantaloons and rucksacks for you, a kick in the nether regions and 1 single Euro for us… Oh the phone’s gone dead again. Had a fantastic match against Northampton Town, so might be worth keeping in the case of a double-drop. This season’s Albert Luque.
Remy Cabella – Sold
The deal is done. £6.2m received for a player not quite cut out for English football. He appeared to have more intestinal fortitude than Thauvin, but his slight build and lack of pace meant that he rarely stood out in a black and white shirt.
Rolando Aarons – Keep (First choice LW/treatment table)
Aarons is a hell of a prospect, but his limbs are attached by duct tape. Each tear and strain leaves him a little further out of our thoughts. Wins pre-season player of the year every summer, but can’t seem to stay healthy for long enough to impact on the competitive fixtures. Offer a new deal, wrap him in cotton wool and find a long-term cure for his many ailments.
Callum Roberts – Keep (loan out to League One)
A natural winger, the 19 year-old has skill and an eye for goal at reserve level. His loan stint at Gateshead was cut short last year due to Newcastle’s desperate injury plight, but in the end he wasn’t needed. Worth developing.
Barlaser/Smith – ?
Again, any information in the comment section would be appreciated!
Yoan Gouffran – Sell
Peculiar. Started off with a goal every four matches from the wing, consistently applauded for tireless workrate and precise finishing. Began his second year playing as if he was the Elephant Man. Admittedly played out of position by Pardew, but that only became an issue after 12 months at the club. Not a player to instil confidence.
Emmanuel Riviere – Sell
Oh, how Ligue 1 fans chuckled as we forked out £6.2m for this graceless French version of Emile Heskey. His only league goal in more than 30 appearances came when he fell on his arse and accidentally shinned a perfect lob beyond Robert Green in the QPR goal. One of the worst players to ever wear the shirt, we may have to pay someone to take him.
Ayoze Perez – Sell
I know he’s an exciting prospect, and he clearly has a lot of admirers, but we need to sell some players and Ayoze has been sniffing around for a big move. A talented player, a return of just 13 goals in 71 appearances suggests that the hype hasn’t yet been matched by substance. If he wants to stay then keep him, if not then he’s arguably the club’s most saleable asset.
Seydou Doumbia – Release (end of loan)
Another waste of time. This jet-heeled forward was, for reasons unknown, never given a chance. Looked promising in his 5 minutes of pitch time against Leicester City, apart from that has never really played. Rumour has it, he was superb at the 1968 African Cup of Nations tournament.
Ivan Toney – Keep (backup striker)
A pacey young striker, Toney could be this Championship campaign’s Nile Ranger. Unlike the chavtastic, gun toting maniac of seasons past, the 20 year-old appears to have his feet firmly planted on the turf. Will provide useful competition to the other forwards, although he needs to be more clinical in front of goal based on his stint at Barnsley.
Papiss Demba Cisse – Sell
In hindsight, the best thing that could have happened to this football club in the summer of 2012 would have been for a £35m bid to come in for Cisse following his scintillating introduction to English football. Thereafter a conveyor belt of £35m striker sales could have taken place, with each player slightly worse than the last, having deceived suitors with half a season of good form on Tyneside. Time to let this one go.
Adam Armstrong – Keep (First choice number 10)
A wonderful start to his loan spell at Coventry meant that Arma had 19 goals in his first 27 matches for the club. Failed to hit the net in a dozen subsequent games, before finally notching his 20th of the campaign during the curtain call, his 40th game of a successful loan spell. Now ready to step up to the Championship, the 19 year-old should become a regular for his home town club.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (First choice number 9)
Mitro has a lot to offer. A haul of only eight goals highlights that the powerful Serb fell short of pre-season expectations, but he has shown a propensity to graft, and certainly has shoulders broad enough to wear the number 9 shirt next season. The latter might be enough to convince him to stick around at a club he has long supported.
Heardman/Gillead – ?
At 20 and 21 I’m guessing they’re either late developers or not up to scratch.
All of that leaves us with a core squad composed of;
GK: Elliot, Darlow, Woodman
DEF: Mbemba, Lascelles, Dummett, Mbabu, Anita
MID: Haidara, Colback, Shelvey, Townsend, Aarons, De Jong
STR: Mitrovic, Armstrong, Toney
Other players, such as Callum Roberts and Gael Bigirimana would be sent on loan, and a handful of lower league brutes plus top-flight loans added to beef up numbers (someone such as Ryan Mason who can’t get a look in at Spurs would be a handy loan signing).