So far, 22 different Newcastle players have started Championship matches.
All playing some large or small part in getting Newcastle United to the top of the table as New Year arrives.
Not taking anything for granted but you can’t help yourself from occasionally thinking about what will happen if/when Newcastle are promoted at the end of the season.
Some players look as though they have almost certainly been brought in to simply do a job in getting United out of the Championship, whilst others look to have been signed up with the expectation they would also be able to make that step up to the Premier League if NUFC can bounce back at the first time of asking.
So if Newcastle United are playing Premier League football once again in August, which players in the current squad look most able to handle that higher level?
It is obviously subjective but here are my 11 ( in order – first to last) Newcastle players most capable:
Maybe no coincidence that 10 of the 11 have played Premier League football previously, some more than others, with Isaac Hayden the odd one out.
Though there again the vast majority of Newcastle’s players have appeared in the top tier, either playing for the Magpies or elsewhere.
Karl Darlow at the top of my list may be a surprise choice to many but I think it is a lot easier for a goalkeeper to make that transition. I bet if you went through the promoted clubs of previous seasons, it will be goalkeepers more than any other position who then keep their place in the Premier League.
In addition, Karl Darlow showed last season he was more than capable of holding his own and was very unlucky to see Matz Sels brought in ahead of him.
Ciaran Clark and Dwight Gayle are easily the best signings of the summer, the pair of them Newcastle’s outstanding players at opposite ends of the pitch.
Gayle’s goals speak for themselves but Clark seems to have it all in terms of his heading and tackling, plus pace and ease on the ball.
Jonjo Shelvey is another obvious choice and whilst there is little doubt he is a Premier League player, he has had a very up and down record, so needs to find consistency if/when it happens.
Tim Krul may be away for a year and his Newcastle career may have dipped previous to his injury – but for me he went from being a top six goalkeeper to being a mid-table one. So no doubts for me that he is a Premier League goalkeeper still but if bouncing back to his 2011/12 form, could be a top keeper once again.
DeAndre Yedlin has one attribute that is a massive help in the top division (or any other) and that is pace. He clearly also has ability but that pace is something that would definitely enable him to play in the Premier League with Newcastle.
Matt Ritchie was excellent for the first few months and since then has been in and out but he is definitely a Premier League player. He was outstanding for Bournemouth in the Championship and then played his part in the Premier League – with better players around him at Newcastle if the club sufficiently strengthens (if promoted) then I think we would see even more from him.
It then starts to get trickier, as to how confident I’d be in players being good enough to be first teamers if promoted. Isaac Hayden has all the time in the world at only 21 and whilst not totally consistent, has shown plenty times he has real ability. I think maybe at times he needs to believe more in himself as when he gets into forward positions and dribbles, he is often exceptional in breaking through the opposition.
Mohamed Diame spent all of his career in England at Premier League level until helping Hull to promotion last season. Fair to say he has been largely disappointing but recently he had a run of matches where he was excellent, the Birmingham game in particular he was outstanding and showed he has the ability still – but does he have the desire to do it more often?
Christian Astu looks a real livewire and has pace and skill to beat his opponent, as well as a decent work ethic. Difficult for wingers to make that step up but he has a definite chance
Jamaal Lascelles is a great asset for Newcastle this season, with both his play and leadership. However, a lack of pace and not great ability on the ball make me wonder if he can play week in week out in the Premier League. I would like to think so but my personal jury is out.
Feel free to debate my/your choices below.