Of course Newcastle United are not yet mathematically down, but while a perennial optimist, there comes a time when you have to start accepting the probable – and start planning for what lies ahead. The Championship.
Not a time for recrimination or hot-headed opinions, but time for some calm professionalism to get us back into the Premier League at the first attempt. And importantly, time to act swiftly so we’re fully-prepared for the season ahead.
The blueprint? Something like that below…
1 – THE OWNER
He’s not going anywhere, so get over it and channel your energy constructively elsewhere.
2 – THE MANAGING DIRECTOR
Lee Charnley to be quickly exited – and replaced by someone with experience of doing the job, not a mate of the owner or someone over-promoted. Importantly someone who is in play within the next 4-6 weeks so that key business decisions are not held up.
3 – THE CHIEF SCOUT
Graham Carr to retire and not be replaced. Responsibilities going forwards to lie entirely with the Manager.
4 – THE MANAGER
Rafa Benitez, of course. Give him full authority over all footballing matters and a long contract with a big salary and a big bonus for immediate promotion next season. If Rafa says no though, make sure there’s a plausible Plan B option quickly – Nigel Pearson, for example, before he’s signed up by Villa and becomes our nemesis.
5 – COACHING STAFF
Should be chosen by the Manager with no sacred cows or untouchable people from previous regime(s). Consider though employing Kevin Nolan in some capacity to bring back some fighting spirit from 2009/10.
6 – THE CLUB CAPTAIN
Coloccini out. Michael Carrick in. High-class local lad who would relish the opportunity.
7 – THE VICE CAPTAIN
Important role as the Club Captain is unlikely to play every game. Sissoko (if he stays) or Townsend.
8 – PLAYERS OUT
A combination of clearing out the sub-standard, realising some cash, and trimming the wage bill.
For me I could live without Krul, Coloccini, Janmaat, Cisse, Thauvin, Cabella, Gouffran, Doumbia, Riviere, Wijnaldum, De Jong and Bigirimana, players who could perhaps fetch £40-60m in total, Don’t ask what we paid for them (we can’t change that now), just think about doing something smart with the money we get for them.
9 – THE PLAYING SQUAD
A properly-balanced squad of 28 players, with a minimum of 2 ‘specialists’ for each position and 6 ‘utility’ players who can play credibly in 2-3 different positions. The right mix of Geordie, English and International players, and the right age profile.
10 – GOALKEEPERS
Elliot, Darlow and Woodman. All very capable.
11 – RIGHT BACKS
Anita and Mbabu. Make Anita a specialist at this position and give Mbabu enough game time.
12 – LEFT BACKS
Haidara and one new signing – Charlie Taylor from Leeds, English, 22 years old and highly-rated.
13 – CENTRE BACKS
Mbemba and Lascelles as the first-choice pairing. Dummett in his preferred position. One new signing – Lewis Dunk from Brighton for £5m – young, strong, English can pass the ball and knows the Championship. Or Tom Lees from Sheffield Wednesday with a similar pedigree.
14 – CENTRE MIDFIELDERS
Colback, Tiote, Shelvey, Saivet and Carrick. Enough physicality with Carrick hopefully able to encourage those around him to keep rash challenges to a minimum.
15 – RIGHT MIDFIELDERS
Sissoko, Townsend and one up-and-coming superb crosser of the ball as a new signing – Anwar El Ghazi of Ajax, age 21.
16 – LEFT MIDFIELDERS
Aarons plus two new signings – who again can cross the ball and go past players. Perhaps John Swift from Brentford as a rising star, and one more experienced player as a more dependable option.
17 – STRIKERS
Mitrovic, Perez, Armstrong (back off loan), Toney (back off loan) plus one new ‘marquee’ signing. Vincent Janssen from AZ Alkmaar for £12m – 21 years old, 27 goals in 32 games this season. Could also consider bringing Vuckic back from loan at Wigan.
18 – NEW SIGNINGS
In total: a left back for £5m, a centre back for £5m, Michael Carrick on a free, a right midfielder for £4m, two left midfielders for a combined £10m, and a striker for £12m.
Seven players to replace 16 outgoing ones at a total cost of £36m (transfer market profit of £4-24m), with a materially lower wage bill, and a greater bias towards English home-grown players (around 50%).
The smaller squad size doesn’t matter, even allowing for 46 league games. The key thing is that all can put on the shirt and do a good job, and that there are no disaffected ‘peripheral’ players.
19 – OTHER THINGS TO PUT RIGHT
(1) Get the press back on our side. No need to antagonise them as we have done.
(2) Make sure St James Park is full every week and a genuine fortress – offer heavily-discounted tickets to juniors/young adults to do so.
(3) Play in black and white stripes whenever possible home and away, and only use a single, well-designed away strip when absolutely necessary.
(4) Image – try and reduce the excessive Sports Direct branding, and look for a replacement shirt sponsor to Wonga – maybe for the beginning of the 17/18 season (and our PL return !!)
(5) Away travel – subsidise away travel every game as a goodwill gesture to fans and as a way of ensuring best support to get our away results out of the rut they have been in for too long.
(6) Take pre-season seriously – no reason not to be the fittest team in the division, and every pre-season game should be played to win to build maximum momentum going into the season proper.
20 – SMILE
Let’s get back to enjoying our football with everyone pulling together and pride restored in the club. One step back for two steps forward and a solid Top 10 position, a great attacking style of play, and our first proper trophy since 1969!!
It doesn’t have to be difficult, does it ?