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…
Wiz gives his thoughts:
How has the season panned out compared to what you expected before a ball was kicked?
We are where I expected, but after a series of unexpected moves by Ashley, including brilliant work in the transfer market, getting top dollar for non-performing assets who largely have unperformed elsewhere, and buying bargains like Ritchie and Gayle to replace them.
How confident on a scale of 0-100% are you that Newcastle will get automatic promotion? We’ve had a couple of bad runs and would could have another. Also, for a club at the top of a league, we have lost a lot of games already. But it would have to be 90%.
How important has Rafa Benitez been to Newcastle standing top of the table?
Our fitness, application, organisation, and above all our defence, are much improved. Our players are not getting injured as much. It’s a shame though that we went out of the FA Cup for exactly the same reasons that we used to go out of the cup under Alan Pardew.
But Rafa’s presence has been crucial – without him we would have been a rabble without a cause.
What did you make of no signings in January?
It made me keener than ever to see who we sign in July. At the time I thought Ashley had reverted to type, but now I think it’s looking like a good call, even though Rafa disagrees. Ashley might want to negotiate with big players having secured promotion already.
A vital game tomorrow and everybody fit, which 11 current NUFC players would you select?
Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Haidara, Ritchie, Shelvey, Colback, Perez, Aarons, Gayle.
Some fans have concerns about the playing style under Rafa this season. Discuss.
He’s switched the side around far too much and he was much criticised for this in his Liverpool days too. And it’s not just been the cups he’s done this in – he does it to keep everyone involved, and give all the players the impression that he thinks they’re all first choice.
But sometimes a change in personnel has meant a change in style, and an effective attacking team cannot become a good defensive one simply because Dummett and Colback and Anita need a game.
How worried are you, if at all, that Rafa may have problems with Mike Ashley in the summer?
Very. It is highly likely. Premiership attackers cost money.
Which five Newcastle players would you keep to go into the Premier League?
Darlow, Lascelles, Shelvey, Aarons, Perez.
Which five Newcastle first team squad players wouldn’t be able to hack it in the top tier?
Anita, Hanley, Dummett, Mitrovic, Diame.
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?
Six or seven.
In order, what positions would need to be strengthened, the most necessary first?
Centre forward, left midfield, left back, central midfield.
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.
Let’s have an orderly return to safe standing areas, more flags, and, above all, an owner who seems to be on the side of the fans.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])