A big part of Alan Pardew’s job was to market Newcastle players to the football world.
Chris Hughton did an unbelievable job when repairing and reinvigorating a fractured squad with almost zero cash.
Winning instant promotion as champions with 102 points then reaching safety in the Premier League at the midway point, only for Mike Ashley to sack him.
It later was claimed that the bizarre sacking had been on the cards since early in the season, with the owner waiting for the first chance to sack Hughton, as the then manager had refused to be pushed around and made clear he wouldn’t agree to sell any of his star Newcastle players.
Newcastle fans were stunned at Hughton’s departure but arguably even more astonished when, recently sacked by then League One Southampton, Alan Pardew was given the job.
Pardew straight away assured Newcastle supporters that there was no way Andy Carroll would be sold.
A month later later Andy Carroll was sold in January 2011.
This was a rude awakening for Newcastle fans, as yes Mike Ashley had sold anybody he’d had an offer for when relegation struck, but the idea of selling your best players seemed a certain path to only struggle.
Carroll left, no replacement signed, and the mood was set.
The following transfer windows saw Newcastle players linked with a potential departure pretty much every time.
Not all of it was at Mike Ashley’s instigation, though at times his lack of ambition for NUFC played its part.
After arriving in summer 2011, Demba Ba was then linked with a move away in every window until he left, then Yohan Cabaye, as the team’s playmaker he became a prime target for a number of clubs. Finally he helped push a move, ending up at PSG in January 2014.
That team that finished fifth in 2011/12, many of those Newcastle players were linked with other clubs at one time or another.
Krul, Coloccini, Tiote, Cisse, Ben Arfa (as well as Ba and Cabaye) – all reported to interest clubs home and/or abroad at some point(s).
Most of that team ended up having 2011/12 as easily the peak of their Newcastle careers, as the club went rapidly backwards with a serious lack of cash spent on the squad.
After Cabaye left in January 2014, Newcastle players were rarely linked anymore with interest from elsewhere, apart from Moussa Sissoko fantasising each window that Real Madrid or others were after him.
Mathieu Debuchy jumped ship to Arsenal in summer 2014 after his best mate Cabaye had left but relegation worries then preoccupied Newcastle fans rather than worrying about anybody else being after our failing ‘stars’.
A predictable post-relegation sale took place in summer 2016, an inflated market and dearth of available players seeing the likes of Janmaat, Wijnaldum, Sissoko and Townsend going for a combined £80m or so.
Rafa Benitez then went about creating a squad to get out of the Championship and then on promotion he was given a limited budget which meant relative bargains, rather than readymade quality.
The net result has been that for at least the last four transfer windows, the focus has only been on who Newcastle fans hoped to see arrive, rather than fears of not being able to hold onto any particular player(s).
That though is set to change.
Jamaal Lascelles is the most obvious one.
The Newcastle Captain has been linked with both Chelsea and Tottenham already, with bids from at least one or two clubs surely certain this summer. I have no doubts that Jamaal Lascelles is happy at Newcastle but who knows what happens when reported interest becomes a firm bid?
He is 24 and so far totally ignored by Gareth Southgate. History tells us that a move to the likes of Chelsea or Tottenham usually guarantees an England call-up, as well as the increased wages, European football and competing for trophies.
So long as Rafa Benitez stays on, you would hope/expect Lascelles would do the same, but once other clubs do put the money down, that is when you find out.
Jonjo Shelvey is another possible who could be targeted by other clubs, anonymous in the first half of the season he is now in excellent form no surprise if there was interest in him.
Mikel Merino is repeatedly linked with a return to Spain and whilst much of that is just recycling of previous stories, even without a regular game in recent months, he is a player with a lot of potential.
Then we have the loan players.
Dubravka has a buying clause at the end of his loan deal but he would still need to agree the deal himself, even though his club have agreed a fee with Newcastle. It would be amazing if other clubs hadn’t been alerted to his form and be potentially looking to muscle in.
Same with Kenedy, no buying price agreed for him but he has indicated he would be interested in sealing a permanent deal at Newcastle. As with the keeper though, his form will not have gone unnoticed.
The bottom line is that Newcastle do have some players now who look to have the quality to be top half players in the Premier League.
For the club to grow, these key players and Rafa Benitez have to be at St James Park next season, with other quality players brought in this summer to improve the team/squad and convince existing players that this is once again an ambitious club that could go places.
There is some way to go before we get to a similar level but when Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby were managing, no Newcastle fan worried that at any moment the best players could be snatched away.
The likes of Shearer, Ferdinand, Beardsley, Ginola, Woodgate, Bellamy and Given all knew Newcastle were potentially going to win things, even if it never quite happened…
Newcastle need to get to that position once again as soon as possible, or as close as we can possibly get.
Quality players will be ambitious and they need a club to match that.