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The six players Newcastle United must keep for next season

4 years ago

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, 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.

First up is Jamie Smith.

Do you think Newcastle United will be a Premier League club next season?

Yes. Relegation usually comes down to who has the heart for the fight, and unlike the previous two showers this team has that in abundance. Lascelles is a true captain leading on the field and Rafa is cool in a crisis (see Istanbul 2005), so I expect us to come good in some of the crunch games.

We’ve had our bad patch and hopefully the Man Utd result is the start of a good run of form at the right time.

How big was that win over Man Utd in giving Newcastle a decent chance of survival?

Massive. It’s so tight down there and there’s a psychological element to being mid-table instead of in the relegation zone and beating whatstheirname was a result no one saw coming. Hopefully a breakthrough in form for a few players but the key factor is taking the momentum into the games v Bournemouth, Southampton and Huddersfield.

Anfield is a probable write off and Spurs will be postponed, so capitalising on the Man U boost would be the difference between serious trouble and actually sitting in the top half come Easter.

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?

I think for the most part it was lifting themselves, although Shelvey and Diame are the two I’d say are showing previously unseen form. The addition of Kenedy, who was excellent first half, and critically Dubravka who was worth three points, was the difference between this and previous disappointing draws.

How many points do you guess will be needed to stay up and how many do you reckon Newcastle will get?

It’s tight so it may need 41-42. I can see us getting the 4 wins though and hitting this target.

The away games after Anfield are pretty much ideal, as we have the soft middle ground of the league. Everton, Leicester and Watford are all too far behind the European places but seemingly ahead of the relegation places and should be more likely hunting grounds than the sides who are fighting for their life. Our game plan could well pay dividends at some of these spots. Hopefully Spurs away will be rearranged late enough that they have nothing to play for and their players have half an eye on the World Cup.

Overall I have confidence that Rafa will approach each game in a way that gives us a chance. Under previous managers a defeat would quickly become a horrendous run.

Does the Winter Olympics make up for Newcastle United not playing for two weeks?

Howay, are you kidding? My wife keeps putting it on the telly and I couldn’t give a primate’s knuckle shuffle to be honest.

I’ve got respect for anyone who devotes their lives to being the best but these are very niche sports and I haven’t got the energy to feign interest in them. Especially not after half term.

After this enforced break there’s probably a pointless, tedious international break round the corner to send people miserably trekking round the Metrocentre and visiting the in-laws when we should be at the game.

Everybody fit and a game Newcastle have to win to stay up, which 11 players would you pick from current squad?

Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Shelvey, Merino, Kenedy, Ritchie, Gayle, Slimani.

I don’t think Rafa would agree though.

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?

You don’t need me to tell you he’s a poxy owner, the only concession he’s ever made was agreeing to employ Rafa in the first place and that was borne out of desperation. He’s beyond lucky in that regard, as without Rafa we’d have sunk after relegation and try getting £400 million in that state.

Do you believe Mike Ashley is serious about selling the club and do you have faith in it happening?

I don’t know to be honest. No one does and people who think they can second guess his intentions are delusional. We’ve been on this ride long enough that you couldn’t have genuine faith but I’m not abandoning hope entirely either.

It genuinely feels like the last chance saloon. Stay up and if there is a credible takeover option it could see the shackles off and we can be a real club again.

If the takeover talk is all smoke and mirrors and MA has no intention of selling, people won’t put up with existential misery under another Pardew style yes man, regardless of what division we’re in.

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?

Don’t think there’s anyone else out there if the PCP bid turns out to be a red herring, so more by default than anything, I’d say Amanda Staveley.

Whatever division Newcastle end up in next season, which six players (in order) would you be most keen to keep?

Lascelles, Kenedy, Dubravka, Ritchie, Merino, Dummett.

Probably speaks volumes that twp relatively untried loanees are 2nd and 3rd and I had to stop myself putting Slimani in there too.

What circumstances (Ashley staying, Rafa going, back to the Championship, whatever), if any, would make you stop going to matches?

I’ve written bits about this in the past but I want to take my kids. They’re all under five and it’s something I’m looking forward to, as many generations before have.

It’s also a chance to see my mates at busy times in our lives for a few pre match beers before the football generally spoils it. This personal element is something that I think the miserable old b…….. don’t even consider when they’re mithering about people putting money in Ashley’s pocket. Well you’ve seen Tony Green play and you got a cup match called off with Forest but I’ve checked the law and it doesn’t make you Papa Smurf, so I’m just going to be over here doing what I like thanks.

I suppose I’m clinging on to Kevin Keegan’s words that one day Ashley will be gone and we’ll have our club back, but losing Rafa and a return to a clown shoe manager and a certain slide down the leagues might be the final straw for me and many others. I might hit the point of surrendering the season ticket (a loss of 150 away points!) and attend sporadically if/when we get to that point. Or maybe I’m kidding myself….

What do you think about what is happening at Sunderland?

They should serve as a warning as it’s exactly the way we would have been headed had Rafa not seen the potential and stuck with the project.

It’s a similar state of mismanagement although Short has put money in then decided enough is enough, whereas Ashley has been consistently miserly. Both are owners that came in to make a buck and seem to have priced themselves out of a sale that would be good for the club.

The foolish gloating of the Mackems when we went down, makes it practically impossible not to take some pleasure in their misery, but they were thick because they mocked us despite it being pretty clear their own position was precarious and you could see it going exactly how it has. There’s a message to heed there alright.

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf



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