The season closed for Newcastle United on Sunday 13 May.
So what does everybody think about the past, present, and future for NUFC?
We have asked some of our regular/irregular writers to give us some feedback on a number of questions about the club, as yet another vital close season confronts us.
Next up is contributor Jonathan Drape-Comyn:
How relaxed are you at the minute in terms of everything turning out OK this summer?
I am relaxed…but not because I think everything is going to turn out ok. I am relaxed because I am simply used to this now after 11 years of Mike Ashley.
We know what is going to happen; few signings, all relatively young, little money will be spent in comparison with smaller teams in the division, we will be linked with a load of players who we won’t get it and come deadline day, we will all be disappointed but go with the logic of ‘well this is what we have so lets get behind the lads until January’. Repeat.
Three words that describe your current mood regarding Newcastle United?
Need to improve!
What efforts should be made to keep last season’s loan players and what likelihood do you think there is of Newcastle signing each of them this summer?
Every effort. First no-brainer of the summer. I am actually surprised it hasn’t been announced yet, despite foreign signings having a later registration date. Either way, I am not too worried about it. Pretty sure that he will be our no.1 next season.
Taking into account how much Leicester will want for him, and the wages he would ask for, I wouldn’t waste our time at all.
I am sure we would all love to have Kenedy back at Newcastle but I just can’t see it happening. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t make the effort though!
I am sure Rafa knows right now whether or not he has a chance in bringing Kenedy back.
Seven players (in order) that Newcastle definitely need to keep for next season?
The 2016/17 Newcastle United Accounts have belatedly been made public, the club claimed a ‘£90m loss’ whilst various football finance experts agreed it was actually a ‘real loss’ of under £20m. Discuss.
I am not going to pretend to have much of a clue about how the finances of football clubs really work. Although, it sounds quite complicated and I am quite sure that the club would aim to make the accounts look as complicated as possible so few people can understand them.
At the absolute very minimum, and despite my poor knowledge on this subject, if we aren’t spending more than Brighton, Huddersfield, Wolves, Fulham and Cardiff then there is no justifiable excuse.
Does Mike Ashley really want Rafa Benitez to stay?
Yes, I am sure he does, but I think he also wants Rafa to know his place. That is, managing the football team.
Throw in the input of the likes of Barnes and Bishop and I would suggest that despite the fact that all three of them obviously want the best possible manager at the club, the main thing for them appears to be that he is kept on a short lead.
What do you think would be the minimum needed to convince Rafa to at least stay for the final year of his contract?
I am in the minority who thinks that if Ashley said to Rafa ‘you are getting nothing’ then he would still stay for this last year. I half wish that wasn’t true and that Rafa would stick it up to him. However, I think Rafa loves it. He loves being the main man at a club, he loves being adored by the fans, coming across as being ‘king of the castle’ type figure.
In the long-run, if he knows he is not going to be given the control of a club like Wenger or Ferguson, then he won’t stay, but for now i don’t think MA has to do much at all.
What do you think would be the minimum needed to convince Rafa to extend his contract this summer?
Full control over transfers and all football related manner from the training ground, to the academy… AND on top of that, probably a lot more money to spend than he is going to get.
Best pieces of skill from Newcastle players last season, what is your top three (in order)?
Kenedy away at Leicester.
Perez away at Leicester.
Kenedy first goal vs Southampton at home.
Where do you think Newcastle would have ended up in the Premier League if:
Hadn’t signed Dubravka and Kenedy in January?
Now that I look at the bottom 3 this season, and how much the ‘tight’ relegation battle was an anti-climax in the end, I still think we would have stayed up.
Had signed Dubravka but not Kenedy?
Stayed up. In the long-term I think Dubravka will be a bigger and better signing but I don’t think you can underestimate the immediate improvement and lift Kenedy gave to the squad.
Had signed Kenedy but not Dubravka?
Stayed up. See above.
As well as a decent transfer budget, Rafa Benitez has made clear that Newcastle have to also show ambition when it comes to the new training complex that was promised years ago, as well as investment in a fit for purpose Academy. How integral do you think these things are for both Rafa and the future of the club?
Over the course of next season, as mentioned, I don’t think it will be that important. Over the long-term and a possible new contract, then it will be huge. I can’t see it happening though, unless new owners come in (which again won’t happen).
What do you make of everything that has happened at Sunderland and how do you think they will get on next season?
Absolutely brilliant and to be honest, I don’t really care how they get on next season, especially while they are two leagues apart. They can go down to the Northern League for all I care, 75% of my friends in the North East are Sunderland fans and even most of them have admitted to me, that the past few seasons has really shown them for what they are, including the fans themselves (except for the obvious hard-core 20,000 which will still be a half decent number in League 1), and that’s a load of rubbish.
Of the current squad…
Definitely need to keep for next season?
Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie, Shelvey, Dummett, Yedlin, Murphy, Atsu, Merino, Clark, Joselu, Elliot, Manquillo and Hayden.
This lot can be split into four sections for me;
Keep because they are 100% good enough to play first team football at this level and we would find it hard to replace them; Lascelles, Lejeune, Shelvey, Ritchie.
Keep because they are half decent first team players who can do a decent job again next year (and also don’t really have any sort of sell-on fee potential like Perez/Mitro/Gayle; Yedlin, Dummett and Atsu.
Keep because they provide good, solid and cheap back up/squad depth at this level so why waste our time spending fees on similar players; Clark, Joselu, Elliot and Manquillo.
Potential for the future; Murphy, Merino and Hayden
Don’t mind if they stay but if decent offer comes in then sell?
Perez, Gayle, Diame and Mitrovic.
Perez is a strange one because he was one of our best players over the course of the season, but I feel that if a club from Spain wanted to give us £15-20 million for him then I think we could use that money to get someone an awful lot better than Perez in his position. It would have to be a great offer though.
The same argument applies to Mitrovic. I would keep both of them in an ideal world because they are half decent and you can’t be picky in 2018 because spending £20 million doesn’t guarantee you a £20 million player. Although, with Fulham coming up largely thanks to Mitro’s goals, plus a couple of goals at the World Cup this summer, we could get a great price for him.
Diame was undoubtedly our best player in 2018, I find it hard for anyone who went to most games to argue otherwise. However, I just can’t see him doing it again next season. I hope I am wrong, but he is at a decent age now and I think it would be unfair and unrealistic to expect to see the same Diame next season.
Gayle is another one I think we could get decent money for. For £10-15 million I think he is a no brainer for any club in the Championship with a bit of ambition. Did wonders in that league for us, and although he wasn’t great this year, he was still our best striker.
People might laugh and say ‘oh you would keep Joselu and not Gayle’ … Of course he is 100x better than Joselu but nobody is going to be offering us decent money for him are they? £20 mil for Mitro, £12 mil for Gayle… could we then spend £30/35/40m on a striker? I am getting into Championship Manager territory now but it’s just a thought.
Need to be moved on?
Henri Saivet, Matz Sels, Achraf Lazaar, Jack Colback, Rolando Aarons, Chancel Mbemba, Karl Darlow.
If Newcastle stuck with exact same squad of 2017/18 (not including the loan players), what would happen in 2018/19?
Relegation… and if the teams around us were to improve like you would expect, then I would say bottom of the league.
Player of the Season?
Goal of the Season?
Perez away to Leicester (regardless of the fact it was a beautiful goal, the celebrations in the away end were something to behold).
Game of the Season?
Man United at home.
Rob Elliot penalty save at West Ham (followed closely by Perez goal vs Stoke away).
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn