As Newcastle United enter the final stretch of this (hopefully) promotion campaign, we have asked some of our contributors about the past, present and future…
Jamie Smith gives his thoughts:
How has the season panned out compared to what you expected before a ball was kicked?
About the same, once it was announced Rafa was staying.
From the end of last season we started moving in the right direction and the summer only offered encouragement that this would continue. The Championship was never going to be easy though and I didn’t expect a cakewalk.
How confident on a scale of 0-100% are you that Newcastle will get automatic promotion?
99%. The international break has actually come along at a great time and I expect us to resume at full capacity and fully refreshed. All our fixtures are winnable and I’d point to the Ipswich game as a possible date of confirmation.
How important has Rafa Benitez been to Newcastle standing top of the table?
Vital. The rank mismanagement at the top of the club has been the headline for years and now it’s Rafa. If he hadn’t stuck it I shudder to think what rent-a-scapegoat would have been trotted out to make the excuses
What did you make of no signings in January?
January is an inflated market and I completely back the club’s stance in refusing to allow Palace to take the mick with an inflated fee for Townsend – a player who has gone backwards since ungraciously leaving here in the summer.
However, Rafa’s clear displeasure at the lack of activity does raise concerns of ugly old habits resurfacing, not to mention newspaper rumours…
A vital game tomorrow and everybody fit, which 11 current NUFC players would you select?
Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie, Atsu, Gayle, Murphy
Some Newcastle fans have concerns about the playing style under Rafa this season. Discuss.
It’s not the prettiest but it’s tactically astute.
While the slip-ups have been disappointing it’s been the norm to bounce swiftly back in the next game as there’s actual planning and structure in place. After years of Pardew standing there clueless while the same team fails week on week it should be a breath of fresh air to see Rafa changing it up a bit.
How worried are you, if at all, that Rafa may have problems with Mike Ashley in the summer?
All the misery I’ve alluded to before could come flooding back if the fear we all have is realised. Ashley seems to have finally got it that leaving a football person in charge of football success is the best way to take a club forward and bring with it the financial reward he thrives on.
Rumours that he could revert to looking for bargain buys with big profit margins sourced by morons and ignoring the squad improvements identified by our top drawer manager, are as believable as they are terrifying.
We are all just hostages to fortune as this approach would break the club once again but a continuation of the theme of last summer would potentially see it kick on. Until promotion is sorted and targets are approached we won’t know.
Which five Newcastle players would you keep to go into the Premier League?
Darlow, Clark, Shelvey, Ritchie, Gayle.
Which five Newcastle first team squad players wouldn’t be able to hack it in the top tier?
I’m going to abstain as you never know how things can turn out. There are many who I’d rather see as squad players than first choices but we may be surprised
If promoted, how many of the starting eleven next season would need to be new signings for you to be confident of no relegation worries?
At least 3 top drawer signings.
In order, what positions would need to be strengthened, the most necessary first?
Priority for me is a number 10. Rafa will always play with one in behind the lone striker and Diame and Perez have both failed to impose on this role in the second tier, which to me has been the key reason to some of the weak home showings. A big, big creative signing here is vital.
Secondly, would be a new left back/winger and finally a striker. Mitrovic is clearly not in Rafa’s plans and we need an option should Gayle fail to fire in the Prem, or the dodgy hamstrings return.
Generally agreed that the atmosphere is usually poor at St James Park this season. What could be done to improve that – no limitation on how radical the proposals you’d suggest to fix it.
Radical hmm? How about a 5 pint minimum limit on every adult entering the ground?
I think standing sections would help a bit, maybe put the bottom of the Leazes and allocate a section to away fans too? Stop their whingeing about the view and maybe give us something to fire off.
My main thought is, I’m afraid, that atmosphere is spontaneous and you can’t engineer it. So you can do nowt actually.
It’s all getting a bit ridiculous though. Everywhere you go the home crowd is stifled by the all seater capacity and the more family-orientated crowd, yet away fans still bait the home lot despite knowing it’ll be a different story in the return game.
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])