Assuming that Mike Ashley does not sell over the next month….

We are in for a difficult few months as another struggle for Premier League survival ensues, with the ongoing ownership issue eating away in the background.

I have no doubt though that Rafa Benitez will at the very minimum see out his contract until the end of the 2018/19 season.

Here are three areas though which are key to getting the most out of the remainder of this campaign.

A (relatively) good cup run

I am not saying I expect or demand 2019 to be the year we end the trophy drought and win the FA Cup. I do think though that we should be able to harbour a little more ambition than a third round exit.

Although once again the scheduling of the FA Cup on the back of a hectic festive premier league period is not great timing for most of the top flight clubs, let alone ones facing a scrap in the second half of the season.

The draw this year though does open up minor possibilities. Blackburn at home looked a winnable tie even with a rotated squad, and although it brought a hugely disappointing performance, at least we are in the hat and can see what the potential reward is. If we can get past Rovers at Ewood we are drawn at home to Watford who were defeated back in November, plus NUFC had the better of them last month away from home. So at least a chance of a first fifth round tie since 2006 is a possibility.

If nothing else this would represent minor progress in a competition of huge importance to the fans, if not to the owner. Playing a strong enough team to win a couple of ties, could be seen as a chance for Rafa to diplomatically stick two fingers up at the current owner and show what might be possible at United. The cup always matters, even when you are battling the drop, many could do well to remember that round here.

Turn St James Park into a fortress

You could point at a number of reasons as to why our form on the road has been slightly better than our home form in the first half of the season.

Some will point towards the pressure and expectancy surrounding home games causing a subdued atmosphere.

To m,e the team looks far more comfortable tactically, when absorbing pressure and trying to hit teams on the break away from home.

At home, the games in which we are expected to take the initiative, have produced the worst performances (with the exception of the Bournemouth game where we played really well).

Rafa knows he will need to find a way to edge out those tight games at home against the sides around us, as they can often define the season and keep fan support high. The results against Leicester City and West Ham in particular were low points so far this season.

It was the excellent results at SJP post-January last season that saved our skin. It was a hope that once again the visit of Manchester United at home would be a turning point but that fell flat. We need a big home win which will hopefully turn the tide.

Bring in two new signings

We all know the policy of transfer spending from the club in previous years and can probably deduce this will be the hardest of targets for Rafa to push through over the remainder of this month.

It could be the difference once again between getting to the magic 40 points, or not.

In the January transfer window of our last relegation season (2016) we needed a striker and brought in Seydou Doumbia on loan.

Last season we had an exceptional window bringing in Dubravka, Kennedy and Slimani who all contributed to ensure a relatively comfortable survival.

The form of our Brazilian winger this season has been far more inconsistent, leading to rumours the loan could be terminated early. If nothing else this highlights how dramatically a player’s stock can drop in such a short space of time. With his form deteriorating combined with the reasonable success of Benitez’s 3-5-1-1 formation, a new left wing-back will be a priority.

While Salamon Rondon has led the line remarkably well since getting himself fit, another centre-forward could be handy, particularly if Rafa continues to rotate. As we saw with Joselu’s recent performance at Liverpool, the team appear far too reliant on Rondon and Perez for goals at the moment (also if Jonjo Shelvey could start chipping in with goals, now would be the time). Another striker would not only ease the workload on Rondon, but also give us another option when trying to get that crucial first goal at SJP. Something we have struggled with in the first half of the season.

I don’t agree with much of the stick Joselu takes off the crowd, many forget some of the stinking attitudes we have had to deal with in the last 15 years alone. Joselu at least tries his best and puts many of them to shame. However, a striker who never looks like scoring is hardly going to be a fan favourite at SJP.

Time for another poacher to nick those crucial points at home. Hopefully Rafa gets something in the form of signings. We are down to such bare bones at present that, anything is better than nothing unfortunately.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JackLaceySport

To feature like Jack Lacey-Hatton submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here



  • Kenny

    Dream on

    • Peaky

      I think he’s on the leftover booze from Christmas…

      • Leicester Mag

        Absinthe makes the heart grow dafter

  • Paul Patterson

    A cup run?
    We’re as good as out, unless you mean Charnley sprinting to the tea urn.

    St James’ a fortress?
    We could always brick up the entrance to stop the away side getting in.

    Two new signings?
    Er, Lejeune is back and Sorensen has signed a new contract.

    • Peaky

      😂🤣😂 love the brick up the entrance idea…

    • Lejeune is like a new signing, I have to agree on that. We’ve badly missing him since the start of the season.
      Fernandez and Lejeune in a back 4 would be amazing for us and we still would have Schar, Lascelles and Clark on standby! Talk about depth here.
      Only problem is we have no depth going forward.

  • Leazes.

    Oh Look…A Man United Supporting media student pretending to be concerned….

    Hey Jack what did you do with your AIG Shirt?

    • Peaky

      Was waiting for that…😂🤣😂

      • Leazes.

        I like him less than Standen, at least Standen has the excuse that he’s an ars%%%le….. this guy is a liar.

        • Kenny

          That`s a bit strong coming from you

          • Leazes.

            Don’t like fakes

      • Kenny

        So was i
        😂😂😂

      • Kenny

        That is the Flag of Northumbria.
        😂

  • 5floorshigh

    yeah and T May will finally deliver the Brexit deal that unites us all

  • Mr_Kinnear

    Calm down Jack.

  • Billmag

    What’s that song Roy Orbison sings.🤔

    • Leicester Mag

      Did he ever record ‘what a load of bollox?

      • Billmag

        😀😀

      • Mickey Slater

        the Specials did but it was called pearls café albeit its all a load of bollocks and bollocks to it all.

    • toonterrier

      Its Only Make Believe.

    • robbersdog

      ‘F*ck Off Mike Ashley’ was an Orbison classic.

      • Leicester Mag

        🤣🤣🤣

    • mactoon

      Take your pick:

      Crying
      It’s over
      I’m hurtin’
      All I have to do is dream

      • Billmag

        In Dreams.😀

        • mactoon

          I HURT myself today
          (by renewing my season ticket)

          • Billmag

            😀

    • Leicester Mag

      His seldom heard cover of the Bad Manners classic “you Fatbastard” is a hidden gem

  • mactoon

    Given the league position I doubt Rafa’s focus is on a good cup run, I don’t expect us to get through the replay to be honest. And the last transfer window was exceptional? three loan deals, two of which we would never make permanent and one was almost permanently injured isn’t exceptional to me, with only 15 goals in 21 games we need a goal scoring striker but I doubt any money will be made available.

  • Leicester Mag

    A cup run ? The only likely run in Newcastle is that induced by a Sprout vinaloo and 10 bottles of Brown.

    The only thing we need is a new owner everything else is papering over cracks (crevasse would be more apt).

    • Kneebotherm8

      Checkatrade trophy cup run mebbees……

  • Rob

    2 signings?? Realistically we need about 8, if not more. Most of our squad is championship standard, some players are even league 1.

    • Vodkamagpie

      Please, dubravka, yedlin, dummet, Fernandez, schar, lejeune, lascelles, clark, diame, shelvey, ki, Hayden, Ritchie, kenedy, atsu, muto, rondon. That is a decent squad that should finish mid table comfortably

      • Big Hairy Man

        Probably 4 or five average PL quality players in that list, albeit some hard workers but out of their depth.

        • Vodkamagpie

          I disagree, that list is better than burnleys team that finished 7th, and better than our last seasons 10th finish team

          • Big Hairy Man

            Ok. We agree to disagree.

          • Kev Newcastle England

            Wtf

          • You forget that the entire league has gotten stronger this year. Burnley are struggling because of that, as are we.
            Few injuries and few decisions not going your way and you are battling relegation.
            Burnley were not better than us last and this term as well.
            Remember, Pardew finished 5th and Leicester won the league! Were those strong teams – No. Was the league lacking quality in management and players – Yes.

          • Vodkamagpie

            Yes, right. Leicester/Newcastle gave the rest of the premier league endless bottles of vodka, leaving the managers to become alcoholics just for a season, which forced 90% of the good players in the league leaving on loan for a season, giving youngsters an opportunity to play, resulting in Leicesters 1st position, and our 5th place. My theory is, Leicester/Newcastle bought the right combination of players, and by winning games, team momentum gained and gained, confidence runs through the entire city, believing in a dream, which pushes players to play like they’ve never played before.

          • Toon Arnie

            I think it was more a case of us having a decent first 11 and being lucky with injuries.

          • Rob

            Yeah exactly, we had cabaye, Ben arfa, ba, Gutierrez, Santon, coloccini back then & even got cisse in the Jan window. We had 2 strikers who that season scored 29/30 goals in the league between them. Right now now our entire team doesn’t look like scoring 30 goals in the league this season. We had a better squad then, every team has spent alot of money since then, more than us & it’s costing us now.

      • Tweed Mag

        Dummet, Fernandez, Diame, Shelvey, all with niggly injuries or recovering.
        Lejeune just back – careful as we go.
        Hayden – wants away, lost soul.
        Muto, Ki – not even in the country. Ki has injury.
        Kenedy – hopelessly out of form.
        Clark/Yedlin/Ritchie – do their best
        Perez – not on your list – Monk will be upset!!!
        Atsu – improved of late
        Lascelles – not the player he was last season.
        Schar – more good performances than bad
        Dubravka – good form, solid performances (bar one mistake).
        Rondon – good, needs help up front.
        Benitez – world class, huge millstone round neck.
        Charnley – paper clip counter, spineless.
        Ashley – greedy, ignorant, incompetent, absent, reliant on PR spin/lies.
        Mid table? Spot the weak links and the result is a relegation scrap.

        • Billmag

          Good reply mate to a nonentity.

        • Vodkamagpie

          Didn’t include Perez, Joselu, Murphy, manqillo, darlow, elliot, woodman, sterry, lazaar, longstaff, colback, saivet, gayle, players who I dont believe has a future at the club, or youngsters, or loan players out, which we still pay wages for. How many more players do you want the club to buy?

          • Tweed Mag

            Quality required, the policy for too long has been bargain buys. Who would you buy?

          • Vodkamagpie

            I have know idea, there must be a hundreds of players that could improve our team/squad, however the first objective would be to offload some players to make it possible to bring in new additions to the squad.

          • Tweed Mag

            Well, that policy could backfire. Leeds seem to have backed off buying Darlow at £4m. Offloading before buying is a big risk. It’s all to do with Ashley’s obsession with profit at all costs.

          • Vodkamagpie

            Buying before offloading is a bigger risk financially

          • Tweed Mag

            Nope – paper thin squad to start with – we are also in a struggle at the bottom of the league. Investment is required and there should be money to spend (surplus from last window included).

          • Toon Arnie

            We must be awash with money – why not give Rafa £30m or so and let him spend it how he wants ?

          • Vodkamagpie

            5mil sels, 3.5mil lazaar, 12mil Murphy, 9.5mil muto, 5mil joselu etc

          • Toon Arnie

            It should be possible anyway surely – a £20m profit in the last window and none of the £223m tv money touched. Why do we need to sell first ?

          • Vodkamagpie

            That’s the problem. You dont see it as a problem that Newcastle are paying wages for players, who actually dont contribute anything on the field

      • Rob

        2 of them players ain’t ours for a start. Ki has been playing poor of late. Only players from the current 1st team I’d keep over the next 2/3 transfer windows would be dubravka, woodman, yedlin, lejuene, lascelles, Fernandez, Schar, dummett, Ritchie, longstaff, Rondon, muto & maybe Perez. Even if you think that the squad is better than it is, with the players you listed in your comments falls around 10 players short of a squad, so me saying 8 or more are required, my point is valid. Even though some of our better players are only top championship players at best though.

        • Vodkamagpie

          2 of them ain’t ours?, where they a gift, a free surprise, I included them because we payed for them and paying the bulk of their wages.

    • No we don’t. The team needs 2-3 quality signings who can bring out better play from the ones we already have.
      With better service Rondon, Muto and perhaps even Atsu and Kenedy can score a few more goals.
      A central midfielder, a left back and a winger is what we need right now.
      New signings have to deliver at least 10 assists and 10 goals between them and we’ll be comfortably safe and can build on this team.

      • Rob

        Ok if you say so. Manquillo not good enough, dummett is a squad player at best, Murphy, atsu, diame, ki, atsu, Ritchie, joselu, Perez are not good enough, I like Ritchie but he’s a funny player, he’s too good for the championship but not good enough for the prem, his stats for us & Bournemouth show that. Rondon is good but still isn’t a good enough goal scorer, muto I’m undecided on yet as he hasn’t had enough proper game time yet, Shelvey is just a ticking time bomb & is unreliable, Hayden wants out but not good enough either. Realistically we need a lb, 2/3 widemen because I would keep Ritchie as a squad player. 2/3 cm, a number 10 & 2 strikers. I’m not referring to this window though, I’m basing this over the next 2/3 windows.

        • You cannot possibly integrate 5-6 new players for 10 or so matches, just doesn’t work. We have quality in defense and some in the middle and going forward, we just need to fill the wholes where we don;t have it (left wing/right wing, left back and n.10 or another attacking midfielder)

          • Rob

            Where did I say 5-6 new players over the next 10games??? If you actually read my post you’ll see it says over the next 2/3 windows. Think you need to read before you reply.

          • That is if we stay in the Prem, because we can’t sign decent players in the Championship

          • Rob

            Well then you keep majority of the players we’ve got because in the championship they’d do well again. Hopefully come may that isn’t the thinking though. 🤞

          • Sell high earners like Shelvey, Ritchie and Lascelles. Take Gayle back, let Rondo go, bring some kids. Hell, even Dawson should win the Championship with Atsu, Perez, Diame and Clark.

  • Shipcote Willy

    Forlorn hope for all three. Already out the cup (after the replay) and it’s too late to turn SJP into a fortress with the players we have. You may not have noticed that we have a bottom five squad already overachieving with a loan centre forward whose best return is nine goals last season. Signings? Are you seriously expecting any quality player to be signed? We will be lucky to get anyone on loan, late in the window, if we sell a few fringe players first.
    Surprise surprise our ‘target’ Almiron is demanding ‘astronomical’ wages. I wonder who leaked that? Anyone believing Ashley would pay £20m+ for a player is in need of therapy. I agree that Ashley won’t sell by February but he won’t sell by February next year either.

  • Carl Marks

    I got the distinct impression,this was going to be pointless,when I saw the word “Assuming” before “Ashley doesn’t sell the club………”
    The expression “foregone conclusion” springs to mind!!

  • Jock Mcglock

    “Assuming that Mike Ashley does not sell over the next month….”.

    He’s not selling.

  • graham18

    there’s no assumptions…the FCB won’t sell

  • Sumit Sengupta

    I don’t get the point of this article. If Ashley doesn’t sell, how the club will achieve these essentials? It is because of him that these things are not happening. I fail to understand some of the writers here.

  • Carl Marks

    Due to the fact,that the vast majority of our fans will not/refuse to do what’s necessary to get rid of Ashley and his “yes” men,I suggest we hire Rentokil – they’re brilliant,when it comes to eradicating parasites and vermin?!

  • Ashley won’t give Rafa money because Rafa won’t sign a new contract.
    Rafa won’t sign a new contract until there is a finalized takeover.
    Who’s gonna win this out?
    I believe we are not signing anyone lads, can’t see how Ashley will sell by the end of the month or year for that matter.