Have Newcastle United been a ‘Championship team playing in the Premier League’ this season?

I would argue not.

However, that hasn’t stopped many pundits and experts, even amongst our own fans…, claiming that this has indeed been the case.

The story people want to tell is that Rafa Benitez has single-handedly kept this team/squad of players from returning to the Championship where they belong.

Before I get to my main point, there are a few other things that suggest the ‘Championship’ insult is wide of the mark.

Newcastle United did indeed play in the Championship last season but proved, along with Brighton, that they were far better than the rest.

Newcastle ended last season nine points clear of third and thirteen ahead of fourth.

On top of that, whilst Mike Ashley didn’t allow nearly enough spending, particularly in terms of the net spend, the team/squad did get added to with some £30m+of players coming in, largely funded by unwanted players such as Thauvin, de Jong, Hanley and Daryl Murphy leaving.

So a club that won the Championship and along with Brighton relatively easily got promoted, then has tens of millions of new signings added to it.

For me that is already a team/squad that is better than a ‘Championship’ one.

That isn’t to say that it is necessarily a great Premier League level one but they are both positives.

Now to my main point…

This is the squad that started the season and before each name there is the number of Premier League appearances each had made BEFORE this season kicked off:

179 Mohamed Diame

141 Jonjo Shelvey

134 Ciaran Clark

70 Ayoze Perez

66 Paul Dummett

64 Dwight Gayle

41 Matt Ritchie

37 Massadio Haidara

36 Rob Elliot

34 Aleksandar Mitrovic

33 Chancel Mbemba

30 Javier Manquillo (as well as playing in La Liga and Ligue 1)

24 DeAndre Yedlin

22 Joselu (as well as many seasons in La Liga and Bundesliga)

18 Jamaal Lascelles

9 Karl Darlow

5 Christian Atsu

So 17 of Newcastle’s squad that took on the Premier League, had already played there before.

The players that had no previous Premier League appearances:

Jesus Gamez (veteran of La Liga)

Florian Lejeune (came to Newcastle after full season in La Liga)

Isaac Hayden

Mikel Merino (a season and 8 appearances in the Bundesliga)

Jacob Murphy

So of these other five, Hayden and Murphy were promising young players who had done well in the Championship, then the other three had all played to varying degrees in the other strongest European leagues.

I think where the accusers got it wrong was that they should have probably called Newcastle a bottom six or bottom eight Premier League team, rather than a Championship one.

Certainly every place above the relegation spots is a credit to Rafa Benitez and once you are getting higher than the bottom six, he deserves massive plaudits.

Newcastle’s team/squad is punching above its weight getting into the top half at present and if they can stay there, it will have proved an excellent season, compared to the level of ability Rafa had available.

Though it has to be conceded that the January loan signings have also played a key part in what has happened these past three months or so.

For me, the aim now is for Rafa Benitez to backed with signings that would give him a Premier League mid-table level team/squad and then see what he can do with them, see if he can make them the best of the rest and aim for seventh…with then who knows what can happen if all the luck did fall our way.

Rafa Benitez has done an excellent job at Newcastle United but he hasn’t performed miracles quite yet.

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  • Gianfranco Shola

    Premier league defence, Championship strike force, Champions league manager

    • Jezza

      …and a club owner who isn’t even pub team standard.

      • TheNutJob

        Jabba`s bound to pull more strokes in the close season, i wonder if Rafa will put up with it

      • Gianfranco Shola

        You’re sadly right, there’s so much untapped potential which Ashley clearly doesn’t want to unlock. It’s sad that people who have no love for football can own football clubs, especially of our standing

  • TheNutJob

    Rafa the gaffa`s held the team together, i think without him we`d be in the bottom
    3 or near to it.

    • nufcslf

      Even with him we were until 4 wins on the spin. Away to Everton showed again how poor this squad can really be.

  • kingfisher

    “So a club that won the Championship and along with Brighton relatively easily got promoted, then has tens of millions of new signings added to it.For me that is already a team/squad that is better than a ‘Championship’ one.”
    I would say so as well,especially if we did indeed have”tens of millions of new signings”added to it. Even Chelsea or Man Citeh don’t have a squad that big 🤣

    • Leazes.

      An owner that positions his club at fifteenth financially is a Wannabe Championship type guy….. without Rafa and his magic bus would have gone on a not so mysterious tour back down.

      • Jezza

        Agreed. We have got one of the weakest squads in the Premiership and one of the best managers.

  • Jezza

    “Newcastle United did indeed play in the Championship last season but proved…..that they were far better than the rest.”

    I disagree entirely. In my opinion we weren’t the best team in the Championship last season. Brighton, Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday all looked better than us. We got promoted because we had by far the best manager in the league not the best team.

    • TheNutJob

      can`t argue with that

    • Rabid Dog

      Our league position this year also flatters us.

    • Quintheeskimo

      Wrong. The league table doesn’t lie, we finished top of the championship and currently at 10th in the league, above both Brighton and Huddersfield despite their bigger spending.

      • Jezza

        I’m not wrong and the league table can “lie” about the quality of a team. Just ask Leicester City. We weren’t the best team in the Championship and we are one of the worst in the Premiership. All our achievements are down to us having had the best manager in the Championship and one of the best in the Premiership. If Rafa goes in the summer then it will soon become blatantly obvious next season that we have got a Championship team.

  • TheNutJob

    a year today Penfold was caught in his shreddies at appox 6am by HMRC
    the investigation is ongoing

    • Rabid Dog

      Made me smile. Now I’m disgusted at myself for visualising Charnley in in a pair of Y-fronts. And now i can’t get it out my head….. aaaaaargh

  • mentalman

    There’s a number f players on that list who shouldn’t have so many premier league appearances

  • Weyhhadaway

    The facts speak for themselves, Apart from a couple of exceptions, we can’t beat a top half team. which makes us relegation dog fighters.

    That said, we don’t need a massive amount of new players to correct that. A good attacking central midfielder and two center forwards who can score (how many years have we been asking now?) and keep each other on their toes. Then we would be comfortable mid table with the chance of a cup, with a good draw and a bit of luck i.e. all the top four losing to other teams.

  • 1ewis

    I don’t like the term “Championship team”, this team is good enough for the Premier League and this is no “Championship team”. However, we are definitely Premier League strugglers right from the start.

    We needed 3 loan players to reach where we are right now, if not we would still be fighting relegation at this stage. If Ashley were to back the team with permanent signings then we would likely improve our chances of doing better next season.

    Rafa is pragamatic, the team has been trained not to lose and not to concede too many goals in the event of a relegation battle. Well thought-out strategy, not necessarily a miracle, but a job well done. That’s his job by the way.

  • Down Under Mag

    I think it’s more an issue of us failing to really buy anyone after promotion. Rafa has done a great job but it wasn’t until he got Kenedy and Dubravka that things really steered to fall into place. That little bit of quality we were lacking… that’s where the judgment comes from.