With the new season upon us, the early summer optimism of Newcastle fans has somewhat diminished. Rafa is unhappy and some supporters are getting restless.
However, fan groups such as Wor Hyem 1892 and Gallowgate Flags are intent on keeping those on the terraces in upbeat mood in order to help the team stay united. All should not be doom and gloom just yet.
Trust and faith has certainly been placed in Benitez from your average Joe on the street, but it’s Mike Ashley that once again has the Geordie faithful stressed about what lies ahead.
Former Wales forward and Newcastle coach, Dean Saunders, claimed on TalkSport that Magpies fans think they should be top four or five. Ex-Toon men John Beresford, Keith Gillespie and Darren Peacock were a bit more grounded. They believe it could be a long season for the Magpies, with a mid-table finish and a cup run the best we can hope for.
Then there’s Paul Merson, Sky Sports’ class clown. The Arsenal legend predicts our ‘Championship side’ will finish 17th, saved only by the fans.
But what are the thoughts of Toon fans across the globe? We asked fans far and wide their thoughts on Newcastle’s pre-season preparation, what can be classed as a successful season, and how they expect the season to pan out for Rafa’s men.
NUFC Reporter, Chris Waugh – @ChrisDHWaugh
It’s been a frustrating summer for Newcastle United fans, Rafa Benitez, and everyone associated with the club, but the biggest asset remains – and, as long as the manager is in situ, the Magpies should have enough to survive this term.
The squad has not been made as Premier League competitive as Benitez would have liked, and a striker is still desperately needed, but the Spaniard is tactically astute enough to grind out results. At the moment, I think lower mid-table is likely to be where United finish.
However, should they sign a striker in the coming days and weeks who can score 15+ goals, then a 15th placed finish could easily turn into a far-loftier one, given the meagre number of points which usually separate teams in mid-table mediocrity come the end of the season.
Last time Newcastle were relegated was due to a lack of goals; it is essential they make acquisitions to ensure the same thing does not happen this time. As long as Benitez remains though, I believe the Magpies will have enough to survive.
Steve Wraith – @stevewraith
Newcastle still have the remainder of the window to conclude business. The financial goalposts appear to have been moved by the owner but his announcement in May that Rafa could have every penny from promotion and anything he earned from sales was very cryptic.
It is clear that the owner is being economical with his cash and it is not what the manager was expecting. But, Rafa likes a challenge and I believe he will get a few more gems in before window closes. I have been impressed with our pre-season, our fitness looks good and players such as Atsu and Shelvey look sharper.
A successful season is remaining in the Premier League. Our first target will be 3 points. Our second target will be 40 points. After that anything will be a bonus.
I can see Newcastle staying up comfortably and finishing anywhere between 12th and 15th. I can also see a good run in the League and FA Cup. Wembley? Oh yes; we play Spurs there…
Mark Catherall, @markeebgoode – London
In terms of prep, we are ready. Transfers, obviously not, but we were told we had a Premier League squad in the Championship last season. Now after improving it, pundits are saying we’ve got a Championship team in the Premier League. We can’t win.
The pre-season games I’ve watched, we’ve looked confident going forward and decent at the back. I’d say anything above 10th would be a brilliant season. With our squad and manager we should be aiming for the bottom of that top half.
I can see the season going one of two ways. It goes relatively well, or Rafa finally gets to the end of his pip with Ashley and walks; plunging us back into chaos. I’m really hoping it’s not the latter.
Shaun Burnett – Darwin, Australia
We have nowhere near enough in terms of quality or numbers. But, from the friendlies I’ve been able to watch, I think we’ve looked pretty good.
Mid-table would be a good place to him for in our first season; somewhere between 9th-13th. I reckon we will struggle, but believe we will stay up.
Matt Willcock – New Zealand
I think Rafa has done well with the money he’s been given. We need another £50 million to finish top half or challenge for anything. It’s the same old story with Ashley.
In terms of a successful season, just staying in the Premier League would do it. Anything else is a bonus. I can see us struggling up until Christmas, losing Rafa around November time and bringing in a Steve Bruce-type replacement before possibly surviving in the end. I hope I’m wrong!
Dan Calvert – North Wales
I don’t think it’s been a successful summer transfer-wise so far. I would have liked to see a few more decent players come in. Pre-season seems to have gone well, though, with a lot of different goal scorers, which is always good!
I reckon a top-10 finish would be a good season, or just a comfortable gap from the bottom three and a decent cup run. I do think we will have a pretty good season and we will have more success than people may think.
@BelfastNUFC – Northern Ireland
Games-wise, pre-season and preparation seems to have been just right with a few friendlies and not a massive amount of travel, plus two matches against good-standard German sides. Transfer-wise, I’m happy with what we have brought in, but would like one or two more before the window shuts.
For me, success will be avoiding a relegation scrap, while another good cup run like last season would be a good crowd pleaser. What I expect from NUFC is inconsistency, though. Something like beating Manchester City, but losing to Crystal Palace; it’s what we do best!
I’d hope for a meeting of minds between Benitez and Ashley again at some point as the uncertainty around what we thought Rafa was in charge of and what he actually is in charge of is only feeding the media who love to stir things up at this great club.
Eric Corry, @USA_NUFC – Pennsylvania, USA
I would say that the transfer window has been fair under the circumstances. Rafa has done an exceptional job within the inflated market. I’d love to see us bring in a number 10, a striker and a left-back, but being realistic, I’d settle for a striker.
Gayle and Mitrovic just isn’t enough fire power for this league. I rate them both, but Mitro is still young and Gayle is injury prone, so we need another option. I think the new signings are finding their place in the friendlies. Lejeune looks like he could be one of the steals of the window, with his composure and passing ability blowing me away.
As a newly-promoted club, the normal goal is survival, but, maybe I’m slightly bias in thinking we are a little better than that. I’m hoping for a mid-table finish and would be happy finishing between 13th and 15th. If we slot in at 17th I wouldn’t mind at all, either, especially competing against teams that claimed that mega TV deal.
I can see the season being best described as a rollercoaster. There’ll be games that nobody thought we’d win where we pull a win or a draw due to Rafa. He’s a tactical genius and finds a way to get the job done. I think this will be a bigger challenge for him than the Championship as he’s not coaching a top-five side like he is used to. He has to take a promoted side and compete with the big dogs. We can only wait and see how it will unfold. I’m excited and can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Steve Kerr – Suzhou, China
It’s hard to say how the preparation has been. We’ve had decent results against mediocre teams and made a few signings, but not the overhaul we were probably hoping for. But at least Rafa is still there. It’s successful for us, I suppose, but he’s not happy, and if my lass said to me ‘at the moment I’m fully committed’, then I’d probably start cleaning out the joint bank account.
Just avoiding relegation will never be enough to be classed as a successful season. As things stand, top 15 is maybe realistic, but you wouldn’t exactly call it successful. With a happy Rafa and a couple of new names by the time the window shuts then maybe you’d say top 10.
What do I expect? Rafa to leave and Tony Adams or the ghost of Albert Steptoe to replace him. In all honesty, who knows with us? There’s always some sort of drama and the script is written for it to involve Rafa. I reckon he gives us credibility to outsiders and instils belief to insiders. Without him, honestly, it could be a rotten, rotten season.
Neil Cranswick, @TFBerlin1892 – Berlin, Germany
I think friendlies are a much of a muchness. We played some good teams, and some not so good, and got mixed results. It’s all part of an experimentation process, so I wouldn’t get carried away, or depressed with any of the results. Transfers would be more of a concern. I think our buys have been good, but our squad is bloated.
There’s clearly players Rafa doesn’t want there, but it looks like it’s hard to shift them. Even though we could still do with a few additions, we also need to trim some of the players we no longer need at the same time, which we don’t seem able to do.
I would see us currently as a team that could hold their own if they’re committed and well-organised. Lower mid-table would be very good, and could be achievable as there’re a lot of similar quality teams at the bottom of the table.
If Rafa stays, we’ll avoid relegation, which has to be the main goal. It’ll take us years, and probably a new owner, to push for Europe. We’ll have some gold runs of form, some bad ones, and more drama in January, but we’re not going to be one of the bottom three come May.
You can follow the author on Twitter @jir1987
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