So there we have it, April 24 2017 St James Park, Newcastle United confirmed as a Premier League club again at the first time of asking and didn’t the scenes at the end of the game do the occasion justice.

Forget the drudgery of many games this season, Rafa Benitez has micro-managed this Championship campaign to suit the division we’re in. It hasn’t always been pretty, it hasn’t always been emphatic, but who can complain at the final outcome?

Before a ball was kicked in August, so-called experts, pundits and detractors pointed out that Rafa hadn’t managed in the Championship and wouldn’t be able to handle a 46 game slog in the English second tier. They were right on the former but incorrect on the latter, Rafa couldn’t have predicted that referees would be so inept on so many occasions to the point of spoiling matches week in week out.

Referees down in this league could do well to go and officiate at pub level, they’d certainly get their ears bent in the bar after the final whistle if they turned in performances like Nottingham Forest away, or Burton at home, to name but two.

There has also been an element of the opposition bringing our players down to their level on more than a few occasions, with lesser players willing to strong-arm their way into games and try any way they can to force matches in their favour. This is fine but someone has to find a way to beat these tactics. If the referees aren’t going to clamp down on fierce play then the manager has to try his utmost to get something out of certain games and Rafa has certainly done that more often than not this season, highlighted by our quite excellent away record.

Of course the title is still up for grabs, although I’m not expecting it, it would be a nice way to send off the supporters against Barnsley on May 7th.

Comparisons abound with Kevin Keegan’s promotion side in 1992/93, charismatic ex-Liverpool character who doesn’t need to save a struggling club, but risks his reputation for the love of a project and importantly the love of the fans.

The fight Rafa may have with the club owner is still to come but where Kevin decided to up sticks and stamp his feet, isn’t mirrored with Rafa. Rafa Benitez has played the politics of the situation impeccably well. He didn’t get what he wanted in January but kept on with the task in hand, whereas I’m not sure Keegan would have. Instead Rafa has stage-managed his popularity with Newcastle fans from the start, always applauding, saying the right things and always looking at the next game, regardless of setbacks.

The league hasn’t been plain sailing, the home form has certainly cost us being crowned champions weeks ago, but to reiterate, this league is not the league of 1992-93, it’s isn’t even the same league as 2009-10.

We’ve had injuries to top scorers, suspensions to key players, hit and miss form from so called ‘big players’ and I’m sure the manager will have took a mental note of all this when planning for next season in the Premier League, for if some of them struggle to perform at this level, then it’s time they were shipped out and we as a club move on without them.

Personally, the core group of players I’d build a side around are Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot, Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark, DeAndre Yedlin, Jonjo Shelvey, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle.

I also don’t see a problem in retaining Christian Atsu, Isaac Hayden, Paul Dummett, Yoan Gouffran, Ayoze Perez and Vurnon Anita as squad men, as we can’t simply just go out and scrap a whole 20-odd man squad.

This would leave a summer recruitment consisting of 4-6 players – first team players, which I believe would be fair for where the club is at present. I hope the owner agrees or there will be trouble ahead.

I’ve heard the constant rumour mill of players we are supposed to be linked with.

Tom Cairney, Ryan Shawcross, Andros Townsend and (with a little snigger) Jermaine Defoe. All of the above except young Cairney would encounter problems with the transfer policy at Newcastle and I don’t see Defoe crossing the divide – but certainly if those type of players were brought on board I’d be delighted.

Of course rumours are rumours and Rafa will have his own ideas and that’s what happens when you hire a top manager, he just needs to be allowed to get on with it.

Seeing Rafa walking the pitch after Preston was great to watch and I have to say it reminded me of another former manager, Sir Bobby Robson. He too came to the club when he didn’t need to, Bobby could’ve pitched up camp at Durham Cricket Club, swung a few golf clubs about Europe in his twilight years and took it easy.

The fact that he didn’t means that he saw something that needed putting right and weren’t we grateful he did.

That Rafa has decided the same thing is also all the more pleasurable on the basis that he’s not from the area, had no connection with the supporters, but saw that they were very similar to the Liverpool fans that adore him, they simply love their football.

Another thing that impressed me on Monday night was the sight of Rafa going round and thanking what seemed like every single person behind the scenes at St James Park, he didn’t seem to want to leave anyone out, a shared experience in the success of promotion.

The one thing that always annoys me, is that we probably hired Sir Bobby at least three years too late. The project he built he was very unlikely to see to it’s conclusion. He built a side for his successor to enjoy the success of, more’s the pity the club handed it to a complete buffoon.

In Rafa we have someone who at 57, can (if he’s allowed and if he wants to) start a project and see it to a more outright conclusion.

Muchas Gracias Rafa Benitez and best of luck for next season.

Over to you Mr Ashley…

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

  • Soldier

    lost me when it came to squad men, Gouffran, Anita etc, etc this is exactly the standard of players we don`t want, no mention of Tim Krul or mbemba

    • Geordiegiants

      I couldn’t disagree with Mbemeba and Krul, but for some reason Rafa just doesn’t get Mbemba.

      • LondonToon

        Somebody needs to teach Rafa the song. 1-2-3-4 Chancel Mbemba…

  • Geordiegiants

    A bit of light relief after a turbulent day.
    I agree we will be holding on to a few more than people think, but Perez, Gouffran and Anita?
    I really hope not!

  • Cuh736

    No mention of Mitrovic? Thank God you aren’t Rafa

    • Burt Humperdink

      The look on Rafa’s face whenever Mitro gets up to his antics suggests he agrees with you.

      • Cuh736

        I think its pretty clear how important Mitro is to the team. Most respectable managers hate antics. Conte frowns at Costa at times

  • Burt Humperdink

    They’ll definitely need the likes of Dummett and Hayden. As you say you’re not going to completely rebuild a 20-25 man team in one season. I am not sure it is even possible. The season we actually tried this it never worked as the team didn’t gel. I agree that Elliott, Darlow, Lascelles, Clark, Shelvey, Ritchie, Gayle are the spine of the team.

    But since we should probably get rid of the likes of Gouffran, Ameobi, Gamez, Lazar, Revere, Haidara and of course Atsu was only on loan. We in turn kind of cannot go mad getting rid of everyone because we are not going to get the dosh to replace them all. The first season up is kind of a law unto itself so I would bet Diame, Colback, Yedlin all stay maybe even Murphy. One thing is for sure we are not going to get enough money for 2-3 strikers so 2 out of Mitro, Perez, Murphy and De Jong must surely stay.

    • Cuh736

      Where does Elliot pop out of? Please

      • Burt Humperdink

        I’m not sure I understand the question. He can pop out of anything he wants as long as it is consensual.

        Again you are not going to get two top of the line keepers with one waiting for weeks to get a game when you are a team coming up from relegation. Elliot is dependable and doesn’t moan too much when he doesn’t get a game.

    • Leazes Ender

      Championnship players

  • Leicester Mag

    For the life of me I cannot see why you have lumped in Hayden with the likes of Anita / Gouffran.

    • Albert Stubbins

      Anita has been good apart from the odd bad performance- ie first half the other night- he’s versatile too- A Rafa type player- Gouffran- I agree with you 100%.

      • Leicester Mag

        Maybe I was a tad unfair. Trouble is though when Anita comes up against a winger with pace and skill he is taken to the cleaners.

        • Albert Stubbins

          Agree to a point but tell me a full back these days that doesn’t.  It seems these days it’s a bonus if you can defend but more important to be able to get up and down the line and get a cross in. Hence why most teams play with wing backs nowadays. The art of defending is primarily left to cdm and centre halves.

          Sent from my Samsung device

          ——– Original message ——–

        • Wor Lass

          You saved me a post there.

  • HappyToons

    Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark, DeAndre Yedlin, will be murdered in the premiership, but ok as squad players. Matt Ritchie and Shelvey if on top form and we have some very good keepers through the ranks. Dwight Gayle would be on the bench. So my maths and we need 8 first team players, rather than a core of 8. Remember we avoided relegation then went down the following season, so we need a full clear out.
    I’d have Rooney at CF, but we can’t afford his wages, as like an aged Shearer he’d still get 17 to 20 goals for any other team but Joses’s Mancs! John Terry even at 45 would be head and shoulders above Lascelles. A reality check is needed as we are a pretty poor team which inspires little confidence at the back and very little creativity in midfield.

    • Robert Doyle

      8 is dreaming. Clark and Yedlin can and should hold their own—surely there are more gaping holes in the first team than those 2 positions. Rooney? You funny.

    • Wor Lass

      Lascelles hasn`t developed like I thought he would this season but I don`t recall him being “murdered” last season when he actually played in the PL.

  • toonterrier

    The important thing is keeping hold of Rafa. Still think he wont get the support he needs and is demanding but hopefully Humpty Dumpty has learned some lessons over the last few years.

  • gallowgate26

    My PL base would be Elliot, Yedlin, Mbemba, Clark, Shelvey, Hayden, Ritchie and Perez. That is who I think/have seen cut it in the Premier League, not who is currently our best players. I would keep as squad players, Darlow, Dummett, Lascelles, Mitrovic, Gayle and a few others. I think we need a striker (Demba Ba or Loic Remy ability) a winger (Townsend ability) a Colback/Tiote replacement. Another creative midfielder (Cairney or similar) A new LB. All of those would need to be top quality. Plus some other additions who can realistically challenge for a place.

    • Robert Doyle

      I agree with this, although Perez, as much as I like the lad, could go for a good fee and I wouldn’t complain if it helped us fill those spots you mentioned. Your base is reasonable given the reality of how many players Rafa will “be able” bring in, and the needs you highlight are paramount.

  • Franzcarrsuperstar

    I’d like us to sign Gylfi Sigurdsson, Theo Walcott and Oxlaide Chamberlain, Luke Shaw and Ryan Shawcross.

    Job done. A big bruising midfielder like Romeu from Southampton or another one if we can find one would be good also.

    • Jimblag23

      Walcott? No thanks!!!!!

  • LondonToon

    I wouldn’t expect Rafa to buy many of the prem players being talked about. Far more likely to be foreign imports. If we’re not under a transfer embargo.

  • Leazes Ender

    Gullible fool….

  • nevfur

    I note you have only named 14 players and suggest 4-6 signings which would obviously only give us a squad of 18-20 players. As the PL allows a squad of 25 if memory serves me right and most if not all clubs will have that many plus home grown players who don’t count in the 25 we will need another 5-7 on top of what you have named particularly as we have little if anything in the home grown section that won’t be out on loan.
    My firm selections would be Clark, Yedlin, Dummett, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie and Gayle. 7. Of the keepers I expect Woodman to be loaned out again and none of the main 4 to be happy to be fighting to get out of third choice so 2 will go which I expect to be Krul and Sels leaving us with Darlow and Elliott and needing to sign a new third keeper. An old timer or up and coming young keeper. So with 3 keepers that takes us to ten. I agree that the likelihood of us signing two strikers is low so expect at least two maybe three from Mitro Perez Murphy De Jong to be here. If he stays fit De Jong might be a good shout for number ten, Rafa seems to like Perez and the fans like Mitro so I go for them. Lashelles is nailed on to stay if not in automatic spot. Mbemba seems out of favour but is young so I would keep him.
    Still only 15 so I am struggling a bit too tbh but expect either Anita or Gamez to stay and for me Mbabu would be brought back. That leaves 8 places. For me PL quality players signed at LB CB CDM AM Two Wingers with LW priority and a striker. Still short of the 25 but Gouff, Gamez/Anita, Lazar all possible squad fillers. Aaron’s if fit and not loaned out would be home grown. ( not sure about Dummett and Mbabu on the home grown front) Going to be an interesting summer.
    Need this tax thing and Rafas future sorted first though.

  • nevfur

    In a recent interview Rafa mentioned the importance of experience this year in the players so contrary to many expectations I think he will mainly target players with PL experience for his key signings to get us established in the PL

  • Lord

    No mention of loan returnees Rivière, De Jong and Saivet? They’ll be like new signings!

    Aarons should be back too.

  • Mark Scott

    I think we need to be realistic about what to expect, even if we do have a load of cash to throw at Rafa. The big thing with the likes of Gayle, Clark, Ritchie and Shelvy etc is they look like they actually WANT to be here. It would be good to build around these players with more quality but I firmly believe the attitude of the players is just as important…especially when things don’t necessarily go our way next season. There are certain players who would make decent squad players, others who need to be moved on and hopefully new blood who provide a step up in quality to push forward and not remain stagnant (or go backwards as we have in the past). I’m sure Rafa has some targets in mind and he will know which positions he needs to strengthen. Hopefully he gets his transfer funds and secures many of his targets – his drawing power should be interesting to see.

  • SH.ER

    Laughable choices

  • Wor Lass

    Paul, you must have read my post on the Chronic the other day:

    Good, Toney, Saivet, Sammy, Riviere, Gamez, Hanley and Sels are all clearly not good enough. That`s 8. Add Thauvin, who is definitely good enough but has effectively already gone. Add Atsu and Lazaar who probably won`t have their loans extended. That`s 11 players who can be replaced – a full team. We`ve also got de Jong, Armstrong and Mbabu who are returning and must be worth a look. We don`t need to get rid of players like Vurn, Gouff, Dummy and Perez who have PL experience who can do a job in the squad. 5 or 6 good, solid PL signings will see us through our first season back.

    Needless to say, I think your article is brill!

    • Kazie

      It’s brilliant but we need to sign good players…a left back, centre back, holding mid, a winger an attacking mid and a Striker is desperately needed…My suggestions are Andrew Robertson from Hull along with Harry Macquire from hull city…James McCarthy from Everton…Siggurdson from Swansea as the attacking mid we desperately need and Andre Gray as the 15 goal man striker…as for the winger I’m not so sure on that position….any suggestions?.

      • Stephen Paylor

        Andre gray will not come. Hew is a hero where he is
        Siggurdson is very possible though and would be real quality

    • Kazie

      We need to sell those 8 you’ve mentioned but I’ll keep Gamez instead…Arma, Woodman and Mbabu all need to go out on loan to a good championship team that will offer them plenty of game time…as they the future of our club.

  • Boston mag

    Goalkeepers – keep elliott, darlow and sign an experienced 3rd choice. Sell krul and sels and loan woodman out.
    Central Defenders – keep lascelles, mbemba,clark. Sell hanley and good. Sign gibson
    Fullbacks – keep anita, yedlin, dummett. Sell gamez, lazaar, haidara. Bring back mbabu. Sign Gibbs
    Central mid – keep shelvey, hayden, diame. Sell colback, saivet. Sign mccarthy and cairney
    Wingers/attacking midfielders – keep ritchie, aarons and retain atsu. Sell gouffran, thauvin, ameobi. Sign sigurdsson, watmore, townsend.
    Strikers – keep gayle, mitrovic, perez, de jong. Sell murphy. Sign sturridge

    Thays my “realistic” view. Sell 13 and bring in 8.

  • Stephen Paylor

    GK – Darlow, Elliot, Woodman (sell Krul, Sels)
    RD – Yedlin, Mbabu, Anita (release Gamez mutually for free)
    RCD – Mbemba, Lascelles
    LCD – Clark, Hanley (Sell Good)
    LD – Dummett and New signing (sell Haidara/Lazaar)
    CM – Hayden, Colback
    CM – Shelvey and New Signing
    ACM – Diame, Ayoze, De Jong
    LAM – Townsend, Aarons (release Gouf, sell Ameobi)
    RAM – Ritchie, New Signing
    CF – Gayle, Murphy, New Signing (sell Mitro, Riviere, loan Armo out again)

    sell 8 with 30 million in
    4 new signings 50/60 million spent, 20/30 million net spend

    • Stephen Paylor

      and before anyone says its 26 players not 25 Woodman is still u21 and doesnt need to be registered