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Opinion

Newcastle United – ‘Encouraged. Hopeful. Realistic.’

12 months ago
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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 Joe Donnohue:

What was your reaction to Mike Ashley coming out with another ‘every penny’ statement minutes after the final whistle v Chelsea?

I thought it was quite rich considering it was the same statement he made at the beginning of last season. I believe it holds considerably less meaning and less weight than his “I cannot, and I will not” quote. That speaks volumes.

Three words that describe your current mood regarding Newcastle United?

Encouraged. Hopeful. Realistic.

How would you rate (out of 10) Rafa Benitez last season on:

Transfers — 9

Tactics — 8

Entertainment — 8

Overall — 10

What more could we have achieved with our squad?

Of the current squad…

Please divide the players below into the following for next season:

Definitely need to keep for next season:

Shelvey, Lascelles, Diamé, Lejeune, Ritchie, Dummett, Yedlin, Perez, Merino

Don’t mind if they stay but if decent offer comes in then sell:

Clark, Gayle, Murphy, Atsu, Hayden, Joselu

Need to be moved on:

Saivet, Sels, Lazaar, Colback, Aarons, Mbemba, Mitrović, Elliot, Manquillo, Darlow

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What is your best guess at to what is happening with Mike Ashley and Rafa Benitez with regard to the manager staying on?

Benítez has a year remaining on his current deal and he will honour that agreement.

However, if he feels that he has not been adequately supported in all aspects of the job over the past 2-3 years then it will be of little surprise if he decides to move on in 2019. He owes nothing to the club and to Ashley, he has already gone above and beyond the call of duty.

We can be hopeful because he has said he wants to build a project here but that rests on how much he is backed from the top level.

If you could relive one day from last season which would it be?

Newcastle 1-0 Manchester Utd — a stellar performance from start to finish, which meant that  only a few more wins would effectively guarantee safety and put the fan-base at ease.

At what point did you first have real confidence Newcastle should be ok last season?

Following the victories over Southampton and Huddersfield. You can never be too sure with Newcastle United.

If Newcastle stuck with exact same squad of 2017/18 (not including the loan players), what would happen in 2018/19?

Newcastle would struggle enormously.

A number of players greatly overperformed this past year and in no small part down to Benítez and his coaching staff.

The analogy of squeezing an orange is a good one, in which a larger, juicier orange is capable of being squeezed a great deal more than a smaller orange being squeezed until it has nothing more left in it. A lot of Newcastle’s current players are of the latter variety.

What’s your choice for best three Newcastle goals of last season (in order)?

Perez vs. Leicester — excellent technique and audacity to take on the finish

Kenedy No. 2 vs. Southampton — incisive counter-attacking move with smart movement and smart passes from Kenedy and Gayle

Hayden vs. Southampton — good technique from a player not associated with that type of finish

What do you make of everything that has happened at Sunderland and how do you think they will get on next season?

I think with their new owner they will get on sounder footing, but unless they can muster the cash to pay off Short and reduce the running costs, they will struggle to return to the Championship, let alone the Premier League.

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?

They’re massive for the future of the club, because the future of Newcastle United is heavily interlinked with the future of Rafa Benítez.

We have to show ambition from top to bottom, become a sustainable Premier League club with young players that have a realistic prospect of making it into the first team set-up.

Plenty of other clubs manage to do so and Newcastle is in safer managerial hands than a lot of them, so we should be doing so too.

How relaxed are you at the minute in terms of everything turning out OK this summer?

As ever, we can’t really relax at any point, and as clubs like Brighton continue to do business early, it shines the light on ourselves failing to get new players “over the line”.

I’d be anxious in a few more weeks time if we haven’t signed anybody on top of Dubravka, the World Cup is set to begin and the transfer deadline of August 9th is approaching fast.

What efforts should be made to keep last season’s loan players and what percentage likelihood do you think there is of Newcastle signing each of them this summer?

Martin Dubravka

Must sign – 95% (now 100%!).

Islam Slimani

Do not sign – 0%

Kenedy

Must sign – 25%

Seven players (in order) that Newcastle definitely need to keep for next season?

Jamaal Lascelles

Matt Ritchie

Jonjo Shelvey

Paul Dummett

Florian Lejeune

Martin Dúbravka

Kenedy

The 2016/17 Newcastle United Accounts were 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.

The accounts were interesting to examine. A great overview of them can be found on Swiss Ramble’s twitter feed. My personal thoughts are that so long as Newcastle are a Premier League club, we will not struggle financially.

The money is extortionate and it would take serious mismanagement for the club to make a heavy loss. I don’t think the £20m loss is too much of a concern. If we were in a similar position to Aston Villa, both financially and on the pitch, it would be a great deal more stark.

Does Mike Ashley really want Rafa Benitez to stay?

Yes.

For all of his flaws, ignorance and stupidity is not something you can accuse MA of when it comes to Benítez.

He knows fine well how much money Benítez makes for the club and how the club’s fortunes — from a financial standpoint — would have been incredibly worse off it if weren’t for the manager.

What do you think would be the minimum needed to convince Rafa to at least stay for the final year of his contract?

Spending assurances.

What do you think would be the minimum needed to convince Rafa to extend his contract this summer?

I feel as though Benítez will not renew his contract until he knows that he can achieve his vision for the club and will not be hindered by the board’s own aspirations for relative mediocrity, financial stability and to use the club as an advertising vehicle for sports direct.

Best pieces of skill from Newcastle players last season?

Kenedy vs. Leicester (A) — Ronaldinho-esque ‘flip flap’

Jonjo Shelvey’s passing range

Where do you think Newcastle would have ended up in the Premier League if:

Hadn’t signed Dubravka and Kenedy in January?

16th

Had signed Dubravka but not Kenedy?

12th

Had signed Kenedy but not Dubravka?

14th
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