With Newcastle United having their usual FA Cup ‘rest’, we thought it an ideal time to ask some of the regular writers on The Mag, the important questions of the day.
Premier League survival, Manchester United the turning point(?), Rafa Benitez, Mike Ashley, players Newcastle must keep, the plight of the Mackems, the Winter Olympics…it’s all there.
Comments at the end always welcome.
Next up is Jonathan Drape-Comyn:
Do you think Newcastle will be a Premier League club next season?
Yes. Following Newcastle has taught me never to be too positive but I am sure that we will stay up this season. We have a tough run in, but I think Rafa has a squad there that can grind out results, or at least pick up enough draws that will keep us up. I could give a million reasons why I don’t see us going down but the main one is that out of the teams at the bottom; WBA, Stoke, Southampton, Huddersfield, Swansea, Palace, Brighton, Newcastle, West Ham, Watford and Bournemouth… I just can’t see Newcastle being one of those that goes down.
How big was that win over Man Utd in giving Newcastle a decent chance of survival?
It was massive for the confidence obviously but I still don’t think it was as big or as important as the victory against West Ham just before Christmas. It wasn’t a game we expected to win. For me, the Man U win is a luxury, a bonus 3 points.
I think it is impossible to say if it is a turning point until the next few games are played out. Look at Sunderland, they could have had a turning point in their season at Bristol City last week but they didn’t follow it up at home to Brentford, so it’s pointless. Important that we don’t let that win go to waste by giving away silly points in ‘winnable’ games.
Does the Man Utd match make you believe that we do have a decent number of players who can play much better on a regular basis in the Premier League, or was it more of a classic case of everybody lifting themselves for a one-off match?
Not really, to be honest I didn’t see much different from any players in that game compared to what we have seen from them previously (except Mo Diame). Yes a few players raised their game a little bit on the day, such as Shelvey and Perez, but by no means did I feel like I was watching different team.
We will need a similar level of performance from now until the end of the season. If there is one thing with this squad, especially this season, it is that you generally know what you are going to get from most of them week in week out.
How many points do you guess will be needed to stay up and how many do you reckon Newcastle will get?
I think 38 points will be enough and I also think we will pick up another 10 points. We will be alright.
WBA would need 6 wins out of 11 to get to 38 points so I am confident in saying that they are pretty much down. Will the likes of Swansea, Huddersfield, Stoke, Southampton pick up 4 wins from their last 11 games? Some of them have only won 5 or 6 games all season so again; I am confident that we will do enough to stay up.
Does the Winter Olympics make up for Newcastle United not playing for two weeks?
Not in the slightest. I would rather go and watch Middlesbrough or Sunderland or one of my local teams play.
Everybody fit and a game Newcastle have to win to stay up, which 11 players would you pick from current squad?
Dubravka (only going off that one game he has played so far), Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Merino, Hayden, Ritchie, Diame, Kenedy, Joselu (or Slimani if he ever is going to be fit)
I know a few people would rather have Lejeune but for me, aside from that Man U game I have been rather disappointed in him so far. Similarly, I just don’t trust Jonjo Shelvey. He was brilliant against Man U but where has he been all those other times this season? With Merino and Hayden, you know what you are going to get.
Obviously I am picking the 2018 Diame and not the other one that I still maintain is being held for ransom somewhere.
Joselu, well, we haven’t seen Slimani yet and although I am sure he is a lot better than Joselu, for the moment Joselu is our best option up front.
What do you think of Mike Ashley’s behaviour towards Rafa Benitez and his ‘support’ for him in doing the job of being NUFC Manager?
It is nothing short of a joke really. I just find it amazing how in every public appearance he has, all he talks about is “Rafa this, or Rafa’s so great” and then behind closed doors it appears he treats him with such disrespect or disdain, it’s incredible really.
I actually would have expected Mike Ashley to at the very least realise just how lucky he is to have a guy like Benitez running his football team, but no, Mike Ashley never fails to surprise you does he?
Do you believe Mike Ashley is serious about selling the club and do you have faith in it happening?
After this whole January debacle, no I don’t think he is. Nor do I think Amanda Staveley is serious about buying the club.
I stopped paying any attention to the takeover talk as of the end of January. There have been a few mentions of it in the Chronicle over the past few weeks but I think that is more to do with attracting clicks to their website rather than any substantiated news.
For me it’s dead, there won’t be a sale and until the next potential buyer comes along, I have moved on.
If the club is to be sold, do you think it would be the Amanda Staveley led bidders or more likely to be somebody so far unknown?
I have absolutely no idea. I think for the moment Amanda Staveley is by far our best bet but that is only because she is the only bet to be made.
The whole Staveley thing has left my very suspicious of any takeover from her part. The fact that her interview with George Caulkin in The Times hasn’t been backed up by anything at all suggests to me that she’s more worried about her own reputation, rather than caring about buying Newcastle United.
I hope I am wrong about Amanda Staveley and she does the takeover in the summer, and brings us some success, but I don’t think I am wrong.
Whatever division Newcastle end up in next season, which six players (in order) would you be most keen to keep?
Lascelles (can I put him twice?), Yedlin, Dummett, Merino, Ritchie, Murphy
What circumstances (Ashley staying, Rafa going, back to the Championship, whatever), if any, would make you stop going to matches?
None really. Newcastle could be the most dysfunctional club in the third division and I know for a fact I would still be going to the game. It is quite sad really but I would much rather go along and support a load of rubbish than not go along at all.
Rafa is great, but he certainly isn’t bigger than the club or anything like that. Some fans say “If Rafa goes I go” – to be honest, I don’t really get that. All I take away from comments like that is you are only interested in going because we might be a good team. For me, that’s not really how football works.
Similarly, Ashley isn’t going anywhere. If I thought (like I did around 2008/2009) that by fans not going to the game it could make a positive difference to the club then I would do it. But he isn’t going anywhere, and not turning up will only have a negative impact on the club… just look at those guys down the road.
What do you think about what is happening at Sunderland?
Its beautiful isn’t it?
Growing up in Durham I have always been a little closer to Sunderland than most. Most of my friends are Sunderland fans, I used to get free tickets from football, and my school, I even played in a Sunderland shirt every week for 3 years! So a part of me has always wanted them to be doing ok (not good, but ok, as long as they were worse than us). HOWEVER, this season has just been a joy to watch. I really do hope that they get relegated. I think the fans have let themselves down massively this year by not turning up.
At the moment, it is a football club that is slowly dying, slowly becoming irrelevant, slowly staring into the abyss and I see the fans doing absolutely nothing? I don’t get it. We know all about rubbish owners and mismanagement but at the end of the day, as a football fan, or in any other position in life, if you want to make something happen then you have to get off your backside and make it happen!
Prediction: Sunderland to go down, Pardew to go down, Newcastle to stay up. Happy Days!
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn