Regular contributor to The Mag, Leazes Park Ender, looks ahead (written pre-Fulham!) to the new campaign for Newcastle United:
The players that have come in?
The squad needed an overhaul and it’s happened, without the fuss and farce of previous summers. There have been some intelligent purchases in that group of eight new players. Diame stands out for me. He is going to get vital goals and assists from the heart of midfield. He’s got bags of experience.
The decision to bring in another goalkeeper was a surprise. This must surely leave a question mark over Tim Krul’s long term future at the club, once his knee is better. Sels looks to have huge potential despite the odd wobble in pre-season. Darlow could end up being miffed.
The players who have left?
I’m tempted to say good riddance. Coloccini should have been moved on in 2013, let alone 2016. He became homesick and his legs started to go. His commitment waned and he went missing in key games. A cult hero who was loved by the fans for many years, but relations soured and when the chips were down he wasn’t a leader of men.
The other high profile departures have been for footballing reasons. Wijnaldum and Townsend both wanted to be in the top flight. That is the reality of demotion, people will inevitably go. Gini may get more consistency at Liverpool but for some reason I don’t think I’ll miss him. Townsend may ultimately come to regret joining Palace.
This first team compared to Championship one of 2009/10?
The current side on paper is technically way better than the class of 2010 who breezed the Championship losing just four games. Can the current crop match the Hughton side for its battling qualities? Perhaps not, but we have to hope they can because the second tier is muck and nettles from the get go.
Current squad v 2009/10 one?
Newcastle’s squad is a lot stronger than six years ago. We have the most expensive set up outside of the Premier League. Harry Redknapp said we’d be a powerhouse in this division. He could be right, though I wouldn’t buy a used car off him. The players have to go out and turn our alleged dominance into a reality.
Mike Ashley turns over new leaf or simply desperately realising he had to agree to Rafa’s demands to prevent total disaster?
There will never be any real trust in Mike Ashley given the way he’s gone about things at NUFC since 2008. Years of blunders are not easily forgotten. I do think something has changed though. Benitez has clearly got his way and that can only be welcomed. The fact this only happened after relegation shows it was needed to avoid a civil war and the mass walk outs if they’d stuck with the yes man approach to running a football club.
Six key players this coming season?
The key players this season will be Janmaal Lascelles, Chancel Mbemba, Mo Diame, Ayoze Perez, Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Other players you’d still like to see leave?
There must surely be a question mark over Siem De Jong. Injured too much and always about the fringes. He needs to go back to Dutch football. Sammy Ameobi seems to have vanished, so he may not be in the manager’s plans. Vuckic is also someone who needs a move and a fresh start. I can see Gouffran staying about but his commitment troubles me. Sissoko and Tiote can both go. In Sissoko’s case I’m getting more and more annoyed that he’s actually still there.
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?
I’m more optimistic about NUFC now than I have been since Bobby Robson took over in 1999. The Rafa effect cannot be underplayed, even if other fans have a pop over it. A team managed by Benitez will get me back into watching football at St James Park again. It’s peace in our time – for now.
Any positions that Newcastle still definitely need to strengthen in transfer market?
I’d like to see a striker and another winger to arrive.
Survive in Premier League with McClaren or Championship with Rafa?
Rafa all day long. I’d turn this around and compare it with safc.
Would you rather have stayed up and got David Moyes or gone down and taken Rafa Benitez. It sounds mad but I’d definitely prefer the latter. Moyes is a solid manager but Benitez has a footballing philosophy. How we persuaded him to stay is beyond me.
Percentage chance of finishing as Champions this season and percentage chance of just getting promotion?
I feel we have a very good chance of getting back to the Premier League at the first attempt. I don’t want to jinx it by putting percentages on it.
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