When Tim Krul eventually walked out of St James Park on Thursday night, it removed the last realistic link with the Newcastle United class of 2011/12.

Joining Ajax on loan for one year, there is some chance that we may see him again as his contract has been extended to 2018 at Newcastle, however, that appears simply a pragmatic step to ensure NUFC can bank a decent fee from Ajax, or whoever, after his year on loan.

The only player that now remains at Newcastle who played any significant part in that 2011/12 season, is Cheick Tiote.

Clearly not wanted by Rafa Benitez and having been left totally out of all the five matchday squads so far, it is clear he has no future at the club and has to leave. The strong suspicion being though that he is driving a very hard bargain with Newcastle, as they try to get his significant salary off the wage bill.

When Newcastle finished fifth in that 2011/12 season, there were 17 players who made 10 starts or more.

So many of them have hung around far too long, never recapturing that peak of form they showed back then.

With Rafa Benitez given a free hand he has at last freed Newcastle United from such stupidity as giving the failing Fabricio Coloccini another year on his contract last summer, then even worse – letting him keep the captain’s armband.

I shudder to think what would have happened if we still had a Steve McClaren, John Carver or Alan Pardew ‘in charge’ with god knows who making the decisions, a pretty safe bet that we would have seen Steven Taylor getting an extension…

Instead, Rafa has cleared out five (with Cheick Tiote soon to make it six) of that 2012 class this summer, with Krul joining Coloccini, Taylor, Obertan and Cisse in walking out of the door.

Newcastle United, a club that had been allowed to decay under Mike Ashley, now given a bit of hope with Rafa Benitez in charge.

Newcastle United starts in 2011/12:

38 Tim Krul

37 Jonas Gutierrez

35 Fabricio Coloccini

35 Danny Simpson

34 Yohan Cabaye

32 Demba Ba

24 Cheick Tiote

23 Ryan Taylor

21 Mike Williamson

19 Davide Santon

18 Gabriel Obertan

(Next highest was Hatem Ben Arfa with 16, the same as Leon Best)

(Others to have double figures starts – Steven Taylor 14, Danny Guthrie 13, Papiss Cisse 13, James Perch 13)