Are Newcastle up to the Championship challenge – writer Jonathan Drape-Comyn gives his thoughts on NUFC and says that unlike most other fans he isn’t getting too carried away…yet.

The players that have came in?

With the exception of Ritchie, who I think will be a great signing, I think that the jury is out on those signings until they start performing.

I seem to be probably one of the few fans around that is quite reserved on the signings made so far.

Sels – we won’t know until he steps between the posts (if you claim that you do know then you’ve been playing too much Football Manager).

Gayle – who knows? Has shown glimpses that he can score goals but no manager at Crystal Palace seemed to want him – I wonder why? Then again, if Alan Pardew doesn’t want him then he is probably a half decent player.

Hanley – who knows? I guess he will be a “does exactly what it says on the tin” type of player.

Hayden – who knows? Only has 26 career appearances for a 21 year old – which isn’t a lot at all.

Gamez – I think he will be a good solid signing, lots of experience at the top level and coming from Simeone’s side, I am sure he will come with the right attitude and work ethic.

Diame – Definitely a good signing, key player for Hull last season and in my opinion, has shown more in the Premier League since 2012 than Sissoko has.

Clark – Really worried about this signing. One of the worst players in Villa’s team last season, was at the heart of the worst defence in the league and he rarely performs for the Republic of Ireland. Was dropped in favour of Duffy during the Euros.

BUT, unlike previous managers, who are we to question Rafa’s judgement? We need to trust him and get behind whatever players he brings in. After all, his CV speaks for itself.

The players who have left?

Wijnaldum – good riddance. a lot of people saying Wijnaldum ‘only turned up at home’ or ‘was good in the first half of the year’. As someone who went to almost every game last season – I can say that he was rubbish for most of the season. I counted 7 games in which Wijnaldum performed well. (HOME-Southampton, HOME-Chelsea, HOME-Norwich, AWAY-Sunderland, HOME-Liverpool, HOME-ManU, HOME-Spurs).

Townsend – A shame to lose him. I would love to be able to bring him back to SJP next season, especially if that meant Crystal Palace going down.

Cabella – who?

Cisse – Has not contributed anything for 2 years now.

Coloccini – Steve McClaren’s biggest mistake.

Taylor – I think even Taylor knew himself that it was time to go.

Thauvin – who?

This first team compared to Championship one of 2009/10?

I still have no idea what our first team is going to look like! I hope Rafa does! First team-wise – I think both seasons are fairly even.

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Current squad v 2009/10 one?

The 2009 squad is much stronger, much more reliable in my opinion. That was a squad that was unlucky to go down the previous season, and almost certainly would not have gone down if it wasn’t for very exceptional circumstances. That previous season was a total one-off, of disaster after disaster.

For example we had players such as: Harper, Coloccini, Enrique, Nolan, Barton, Lovenkrands, Smith, Gutierrez, Ameobi, Butt, Ryan & Steven Taylor.

Plus a lot of young players who we now know have fulfilled their potential (to an extent)… Carroll, Krul, Simpson, Van Aanholt, Kadar, Lua Lua. Along with many decent squad players.

Whereas this side, I just don’t see any experience, I still don’t see any leaders in the team – maybe Hanley/Lascelles. I am just not as confident as everyone seems to be.

Mike Ashley turns over new leaf or simply desperately realising he had to agree to Rafa’s demands to prevent total disaster?

Almost certainly trying to prevent a total disaster. One thing that has disappointed me slightly this summer, is many fans appearing to ‘forgive and forget’ just because we have a good manager now.

For me, even if we do go straight back up this season it doesn’t make up for almost a decade of neglect, disrespect and devastation caused by Mike Ashley.

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Six key players this coming season?

Mbemba, Lascelles, Colback, Shelvey, Perez, Mitrovic.

All players who we know can perform, who we know are good enough to lead the team to promotion – question is, will they perform?

Other players you’d still like to see leave?

Simply for wage bill purposes… I think one of the goalkeepers (Krul, Elliott, Darlow) and I would even say two of those if Woodman doesn’t go out on loan.

Haidara, Sissoko, Gouffran, Riviere, Armstrong (loan), Tiote.

How would you rate your enthusiasm as a Newcastle fan at this moment (compared to recent seasons) and are you planning on going to matches?

As a student down south I don’t get to many homes games but I will be at every away game as per usual. Being in London, you get the chance to go to a lot of games, a lot of new different teams… been to a lot of West Ham games, big games at Wembley etc.

And you soon find out that no matter how bad we are, nothing compares to watching Newcastle.

Any positions that Newcastle still definitely need to strengthen in transfer market?

I expect Janmaat to go, so a right-back. If Tiote goes then he needs to be replaced.

Another centre forward is imperative. Must be experienced and most importantly, reliable. I would not rely on any of our current forwards. Two possible forwards: Peter Crouch I think would be a good signing and Leigh Griffiths.

Survive in Premier League with McClaren or Championship with Rafa?

Championship with Rafa – a fundamental shift in ideology and power was needed for the long term best interests of the club.

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Percentage chance of finishing as Champions this season and percentage chance of just getting promotion?

Who knows? I think we have the strongest squad, the best manager, the best support and I do think we will be very hard to beat at home. But really, who knows?

As a gambling man, I know too well that anything can happen in football.

Rafa Benitez?

A proper manager, who clearly has a plan, with experience and a CV that is way above Championship level. So lets just see how the plan works out?

Ultimate prediction is that Newcastle will either run away with the league and finish Champions similar to last time out.


Things will go horribly wrong and Rafa will be gone by January.

Last thing – I still think we need a marquee signing, maybe that is not Rafa’s style this summer and I understand that. But if Sissoko does go, and we do receive £35m then I would love to see £12/13 million be spent on replacing him: Will Hughes, Robbie Brady, Jordan Ayew.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn