We have asked a number of our regular/irregular contributors various question about Newcastle United – the events of last season and moving forward.
Up first is Paul Patterson:
How does this promotion team compare to the 2009/10 one?
Fairly similar but the main difference is that the last one had many characters. We don’t have a Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll or a Joey Barton, or experienced heads like Nicky Butt, Steve Harper and Fabricio Coloccini.
However, both sides got the job done, won the title and were guided by a likeable manager which united the club.
Somebody who deserves more credit for last season than they maybe have received?
Fairly straightforward, the player of the season Dwight Gayle and I’m amazed that he doesn’t get anywhere near the level of support that Mitrovic receives for doing very little.
Honourable mention to Ciaran Clark for being the find of the season.
How would you rate (out of 10) Rafa Benitez last season on –
A mixed bag really. Top marks for Dwight Gayle, Ciaran Clark and Matt Ritchie, but I still fail to see what Mo Diame does for such a high fee/wages. Achraf Lazaar and Jesus Gamez seemed a waste of time.
There were some odd decisions and strange substitutions during last season and keeping a settled side would have been helpful – but we won the league so Rafa got it right regardless.
I’ve got to say, it was difficult to watch for long periods, only a few games stand out as being good to watch. Preston in the cup, QPR away and Norwich and Leeds at home the obvious ones. However, we did go to title rivals Brighton and Huddersfield and win so we can’t grumble.
We went up as champions and I would have taken that at the start regardless of how it happened.
How did the Championship season turn out compared to what you imagined would happen?
Once Rafa Benitez decided to stay at the start, I was always confident we would be there or thereabouts, even after the blip at the beginning.
If no signings (other than Atsu) where would this current squad/team finish in the Premier League?
Bottom 6. There is quality in the side and with Shelvey and Gayle we have a couple of players that would walk into any side in the bottom half of the league. I would put Ritchie and Yedlin in that group as well and with Clark, Lascelles and Darlow we have a good core of players that may be able to step up but there’s the problem, we need surefire things from the transfer market this summer, not potential.
With level of signings you anticipate, how high do you think Newcastle can aim next season?
I think we need to aim to be the best of the rest outside the top 7. That’s not to say that is where I expect us to finish, there will be problems throughout the season, but the league is average to poor from 8th downward.
If 10 was Mike Ashley totally changing his outlook on running Newcastle and 0 not at all, how far do you think he has moved (if at all) in the 15 months Rafa Benitez has been at St James Park?
This is where fans need to lay off the owner. If he remains true to his word and all the money from promotion is given to Rafa then he has certainly moved from the days of Pardew and McClaren.
The Graham Carr situation will be interesting as I don’t see the need for him now. His mistakes far outweigh his success stories and Rafa has his own scouts anyway. If we start signing experience regardless of sell-on value then we can certainly assume that Rafa has convinced Ashley that the current model for the club is better than the previous one.
How do you rate local media coverage of Newcastle these days?
It still comes across as a bit ‘siege mentality’ style, although Rafa has certainly moved things away from nothing at all, as was the case before. A friendly, likeable face in front of the cameras is better than the McClaren and Pardew rubbish that got on the tv.
How do you rate national media coverage of Newcastle these days?
The national media don’t interest me as they always favour southern clubs anyway. A lot of them look at us, the mackems and ‘Boro as an inconvenience being in the league, even though we at Newcastle especially have provided them with enough drama to report down the years.
What would be your ideal first Newcastle Premier League fixture of the season?
As long as it’s at home and against one of last season’s bottom half sides I’ll be ok, just not one of the top six away. It’s always nice to get off to a good start.
Three words to describe how you feel about Newcastle United at the minute?
Pleased, optimistic, hopeful.
Over the last four or five summers pre-Rafa I would be using bored, disinterested and embarrassed.
Mike Ashley is pushing ahead with a development on land opposite the Gallowgate End which almost certainly will make it impossible to ever expand St James Park in the future (This will only profit him and not the football club). What are your thoughts, especially considering Newcastle averaged over fifty one thousand in the Championship.
This is where the owner deserves every criticism he gets. If a vision could be put to him where this club has another 10k fans getting into the ground every week, with a side that is competing for something (anything will do) then why throw that away?
The last game of the season should have woken him up to this. Imagine that ground with more fans in it celebrating a proper trophy. He would be best advised to scrap his current plan and continue the feel good factor around the club.
How positive do you feel about progress being made underneath first team level at Newcastle?
I don’t see it as yet, the days where we let go/slip through the net: Alan Shearer, Steve Stone, Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle and Peter Beardsley to name but a few are long gone, because I don’t think we are producing them.
In the 90s we had Steve Watson, Lee Clark, Robbie Elliott and Steve Harper all come through, I don’t even see that level at the minute. The last round of players were over ten years ago with Michael Chopra, Steven Taylor and even Shola Ameobi hardly worth writing home about.
What are your hopes/expectations for the atmosphere at St James Park next season and what could be done to improve it?
A winning side would help. Failing that, just some excitement, some good football, will do.
Sadly, I don’t think there’s much of that in the Premier League at the minute, it’s all safety first stuff which hardly excites. Keeping the feel-good factor around the club will do for now.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])