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I’d settle for repeat of this double signing that set Newcastle alight a year ago today

4 years ago

After that last day mental Championship title win when Newcastle beat Barnsley and Brighton crashed at Aston Villa on 7 May 2017, the momentum was very much ours.

Within days Newcastle United released a statement which confirmed the Manager was going nowhere, Rafa Benitez talking about the challenges ahead at St James Park and preparing for the Premier League.

Even Christian Atsu’s conversion of loan to permanent a few days after that kept the momentum going in the right direction, maybe just a squad player but a winger potentially with something to offer as the club makes the step up.

I am still hopeful that the transfer market will work for Rafa and Newcastle but I never imagined I would be feeling so subdued, compared to how it felt a year ago.

Yes Rafa had agreed to stay but Newcastle had still been relegated, yet despite that the mood was buoyant!

On 29 June 2016 the United boss surprised us all when his first signing was a goalkeeper, the position where most of us felt was the least problematic in terms of needing a new first choice, but Rafa brought in Matz Sels for around £5m.

The later days of June had also seen growing speculation that two Premier League players were set to be signed.

This brought much doubt and scorn from fans of other clubs and the media but sure enough, a year ago today Newcastle signed both Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie.

We had already been led to believe that Rafa Benitez would have money to spend regardless and that any players sold would see that cash added BUT it was still a great feeling that this duo had signed.

They ticked so many boxes: both had shown to an extent they could do it in the Premier League but with limited appearances, whilst they certainly had shown the Championship would be well within their remit.

A year later and we can look back on 23 goals and 2 assists for Dwight Gayle despite injuries, whilst Matt Ritchie was equally impressive with 12 goals and 7 assists.

The fact that this pair of players were prepared to step down a division and obviously believed Newcastle could rise again, also gave Newcastle fans such a lift.

Whilst it was a massive boost, the signings also felt natural and unforced, they didn’t feel out of the ordinary even though it was players in their prime willing to give up the Premier League, at least in the short-term.

The feeling at the minute I’m sad to say is that new exciting signings feel a world away.

I think we are all sitting here just hoping that there is a secret master plan in the process of bringing in at least a handful of new players who will convince supporters that the club can keep the momentum going.

I would love it, just love it, if Newcastle could unveil a couple of players today of similar stature to Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie.

It isn’t that I think they are world beaters but very good capable players who have every chance of doing a decent job this coming season, I don’t think they are sure to do it in the Premier League but I think they have a good chance of doing so – which is surely the best we can hope for of any new signing this summer.

You hope that if like Bournemouth, Mike Ashley sees that £20m for a player is the new reality for one or two signings this summer, then Newcastle could get the odd player who has been there, seen it, done it, in the Premier League, but reality is that we can just hope that at least signings look to have the potential to do it.

As to why Newcastle/Rafa Benitez are finding it so difficult to bring in more Gayles & Ritchies, or better, is the big question.

I suppose another big question is just how much Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie would cost in today’s market?

So many more questions than answers at the minute…

These are the dates when the 12 signings arrived in summer 2016:

29 June – Matz Sels

1 July – Dwight Gayle

1 July – Matt Ritchie

8 July – Jesus Gamez

11 July – Isaac Hayden

21 July – Grant Hanley

2 August – Ciaran Clark

2 August – Mohamed Diame

23 August – DeAndre Yedlin

27 August – Achraf Lazaar

27 August – Daryl Murphy

30 August – Christian Atsu

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