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])

  • Wor Lass

    Don`t agree with you wiz. Why would you start Haidara in preference to one of our steadiest performers this season? Also, do you really prefer Colback to Hayden? There are a few other things but what about rating Ritchie as being less able than Perez to hack it in the PL? It`s a game of opinion and mine`s no more valid than yours but come on!

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      As long as Gouff & Big Vern are gone that does me.
      i wish them all the best at Real & Barca respectfully
      Oh & not forgetting Diame an ideal replacement for Moussa at Spurs

      • Mark Davies


        • Wor Lass

          With those teeth? Bit risky!

      • Wor Lass

        Do you really think Real Zaragosforth will be interested in either of them?!

    • Wiz

      I’d like us to be much more on the front foot. Dummett at left back amounts to an announcement that we are on the back foot. Haidara is a deliciously good player and may be out of his element in the Championship, but I remain hopeful he will come good in the Premiership like (I live in hope, romantically) Didier Six. Colback is not as good a player as Hayden, who could easily go on to play for England, but Hayden is not as good a player as Shelvey, at least not for Newcastle. Shelvey alongside Colback is a good combination, and Shelvey with Hayden is a bit powder puff, frankly. But I like Hayden, I do, I really do. Perez has by many many miles the best control of any Newcastle player in the six yard box.

      • steve

        Haidara! He was awful before his injury and he hasn’t even managed to reach that low standard since.

        • mentalman

          Bit of a bromance going on with two players who haven’t shown any reason why they should be playing in the championship let alone the premier league. Haidara is poor defensively and attacking, hence why he’s been told to stay away from the first team. Aaron’s shows glimpses but needs to put a lot more work in to play in the premier league.

      • Wor Lass

        From what I remember of Haidara (it`s a long time since he played) he`s got the makings of a decent player and definitely has a lot more than Dummy going forward but he`s suspect defensively – which is the first duty of a full back in my opinion. Cast your mind back to the Forest away travesty – Hayden was awesome in that game, he`s got it in him to really put his foot in. I agree that Perez has a touch of class and I really hope he stays with us and develops but Ritchie does the biz week in and week out – and has already done it in the Prem.

  • JulioLaker

    Agreed, why Colback he’s been the most disappointing signing of all. We’ve missed Hayden as much if not more than Gayle. As exciting a prospect as Aarons is I’d also take Ritchie over him in my 5.

  • toonterrier

    Why doesn’t the large one get rid of Chumpley and Carr and if Moncur is still hiding in the cellar add him to the list. Non performers getting money for turning up puts them top of the list.

    • Lord

      Probably because he likes yes men on his team?

  • RubberBandit

    Bring back the singing corner. Getting rid of it (out of pure spite i might add) was a terrible decision. Being right next to the away fans it created and encouraged constant noise from both sides.