We have asked a number of our regular/irregular contributors various question about Newcastle United – the events of last season and moving forward.
Up this time is Jonathan Drape-Comyn:
How does this promotion team compare to the 2009/10 one?
It doesn’t, in my opinion.
I think all over the pitch, perhaps with the exception of Jonjo Shelvey in the middle of the park, this team doesn’t compare. When we were last in the Championship, it was evident that quite a few of our players were on a different level to the championship (Krul, Coloccini, Enrique, Gutierrez, Barton, Nolan, Carroll… even Shola was brilliant when he played).
I don’t know if the standard has got better, I think that is just an easy excuse to try and be positive. I think Rafa has got the absolute maximum this season out of a very average (but big in numbers) group of players.
Somebody who deserves more credit for last season than they maybe have received?
Paul Dummett, who has been brilliant this season. You cannot ask for much more from him, especially since January. His critics keep pointing to his mistakes but I can’t think of that many except when he headed the ball past Darlow (who we were playing escapes me). He gives his all, he defends well, has a deceiving amount of pace. Yes he isn’t great going forward but I would rather have a defender who can defend.
How would you rate (out of 10) Rafa Benitez last season on:
Tactics (10) – This is a funny one because if it was just down to how much I enjoy watching us play football, especially at home, it would probably be a 5 or a 6. But you can’t argue with results and winning the league.
Entertainment (5) – I am sorry but I have not felt entertained this season. It is not a complaint but I find it hard to believe that any Newcastle fans, who like me were at most games last season, came away from any games (except away at QPR and Brighton) feeling like we had really put on a show.
Overall (10) – Did the job, can’t ask for anything else from him. On and off the pitch he has been a manager that we can all be proud of.
How did the Championship season turn out compared to what you imagined would happen?
I actually have no idea. On the one hand, at the start of the season I would have been over the moon with the play-offs. On the other hand, with the squad, the manager, the money spent, the fans, it would have been a HUGE failure if we did not get promoted.
If no signings (other than Atsu) where would this current squad/team finish in the Premier League?
You would like to think that Rafa would get the best out of the players again, but there are so many, such as Gouffran, Anita, Colback, Lascelles, even Darlow, that I am just not sure whether they will be PL quality.
Only time will tell, but if the squad stayed the same I would be over the moon with 17th (how depressing is that?).
With level of signings you anticipate, how high do you think Newcastle can aim next season?
I just want us to win every game that we go into. I hope that Rafa is aiming to win every game, because that’s how football should be. You try to win every single game and then see where you end up at the end of the season.
It would be naïve to expect a top half finish in my opinion. I actually don’t think the league position will be that important next season, as long as we aren’t in a relegation fight, and we can get our feet comfortably under the table as a PL side, that will do.
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?
(2) Mike Ashley cannot be trusted. I think he has recognised that to get the most out of Newcastle United then he needs to give Rafa some power, because ultimately, he will guarantee you some sort of success. However, I will gladly argue with anyone all day who believes that Mike Ashley has had some sort of epiphany, and he now cares about Newcastle United, the fans, the club… it’s not true. He just wants to make money, promote his brands on a big stage, and laugh all the way to the bank (via the casino).
How do you rate local media coverage of Newcastle these days?
(2) Again I probably sound very negative when I am actually really happy but quite frankly, the local media in the North East are laughable at times (most of the time). I am not actually sure what they do? Except provide a lot of pointless clickbait articles, talk a lot of nonsense, and respond to people on social media who kiss their backsides.
I long for the days when I used to pick up the Chronicle to read an actual piece of journalism/opinion piece from the likes of Gibbo.
How do you rate national media coverage of Newcastle these days?
I don’t really care about the national media coverage. It has always painted a flawed picture of Newcastle United.
What would be your ideal first Newcastle Premier League fixture of the season?
I really want to say Tottenham away, however, I think a bottom half team at home would be ideal so that we can have a great chance of kicking off the season in front of 52,000, with 3 points.
Three words to describe how you feel about Newcastle United at the minute?
Happy, Optimistic, Cautious.
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.
It just goes to show that Mike Ashley doesn’t care less about Newcastle United, it is just another part of his business portfolio that he wishes to make the most of.
In truth, it’s a disgrace… but what can we do? The sad truth is that because we are winning football matches, most fans couldn’t care less, which I find quite sad. I bet that if the redevelopment plans were announced when we were at the bottom of the league people would have much more to say about it.
Again, the local media haven’t said much about it… all because they want to keep the club happy rather than actually report on what is going on.
How positive do you feel about progress being made underneath first team level at Newcastle?
Again, not positive. I have been lucky enough to be a part of the set-up at academy levels and I know how it works. The current crop of youngsters at Newcastle aren’t good enough… they aren’t even in the top league! In fact, there isn’t one player who is good enough at the moment. The likes of Aarons, Armstrong, Barlaser, Good are all 20+ now. That is old! Believe me!
If you aren’t in and around the first team by 17/18, then I am afraid the odds are against you and you probably are not going to make it.
On the other hand, instead listen to Lee Ryder if you want to believe that the next crop of players are the future and Tom Heardman (who turns 22 in September and couldn’t get a game at relegated Hartlepool) is the future Alan Shearer.
What are your hopes/expectations for the atmosphere at St James Park next season and what could be done to improve it?
Turning the Gallowgate Corner into an actually singing section is imperative. It is going to take time of course, but hopefully we can learn a few things from the Green Brigade (at Celtic), in putting together a community of like-minded fans who want to sing for 90 minutes and create the best possible atmosphere.
Fans who don’t want to do this simply have to move to somewhere else in the stadium, until that happens, nothing will really improve.
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])