No communication from Mike Ashley and riddles from Rafa Benitez
There are now just over four weeks of the Premier League season to go for Newcastle United.
So we have asked a number of regular/irregular Mag contributors about the state of Newcastle United.
What has/hasn’t happened this season and maybe more importantly, what is likely to happen moving forward.
Next up answering questions is Jonathan Drape-Comyn:
How would you sum up how you feel as a Newcastle fan at this moment in time?
A bit ‘meh’ really. We are safe, nothing is going on and fans don’t really seem to have a clue about anything.
No communication from the club, little bits from Rafa (but in the main largely riddles) and nothing overly surprising on the pitch.
It is a club that is having its soul taken out day by day. In fact, it has already had its soul taken out for me.
I stood in the stand at Arsenal on that Monday night thinking “there is literally no point in me being here”… it was all a bit lifeless. I know that feeling won’t ever go away while Mike Ashley is running the football club.
As it stands now, do you think:
Mike Ashley will still own Newcastle United when next season kicks off?
Yes. As Chris Holt has consistently said “I guarantee you, Mike Ashley is NOT selling NUFC as long as he has a sports shop that won’t increase its advertising budget”.
Newcastle will be a PL team next season and they are off to China in the summer… I wonder what for eh?
Currently, aside from the London Magpie Group and The Magpie Group there is no opposition to Mike Ashley. That is it. Most fans are still going along, sitting in their seats, saying nothing and doing nothing. The local media continues to post meaningless clickbait.
Why would Mike Ashley go anywhere? He’s got it pretty easy at the moment.
Rafa Benitez will sign a new contract?
I am not going to give a yes or no on this one but I will just give my honest opinion which I am sure some people won’t like!
If Rafa does sign the contract, then he is a mug. Why he is even still in negotiations with them I find a bit strange. Surely if the club were even the slightest bit serious about Rafa they would have nailed him down to an offer that he can’t refuse already?
To be honest, I will think a lot less of Rafa if he does sign a contract. All of the stories I have heard have mentioned that it is a two year contract on the table. What is that going to achieve? If he does sign, it clearly isn’t with the intention of a five year plan because we will just be in this situation again in two years time.
Will it even matter?
Will Mike Ashley allow the £100 million spend on the playing squad that is needed, along with sufficient investment in the training ground, academy and stadium while also improving the fans forum, ticketing systems, communication and all round aspects of the club? No. You are mad if you think so.
So I think it is best if he does us all a favour, stops wasting everybody’s time with riddles and what is essentially political posturing. He sees his contract out like the honorable man he is, and then he moves aside so fans can get on with the most important thing that is going to improve the fortunes of Newcastle United, and that is getting rid of Mike Ashley.
Salomon Rondon will be bought by Newcastle?
No. Even if Rafa does stay, it is becoming clear that the club are unwilling to fork out such money for a player of his age.
The 11 Newcastle players you would most like to see still at the club next season (including players currently on loan), list them in order of importance.
Have to be honest, it was an effort to get to seven. I am not overly fussed about the rest of them.
What do you think about Miguel Almiron so far and is Rafa getting the best out of him, or should he be playing further forward?
Before I give my honest opinion, which I am sure people will criticise, let me just say that from January until the end of the season, this is a total free pass for him. He can play as bad as he wants in the next few games and I won’t judge him for it.
In all honesty I think he has done pretty well since he came in. He hasn’t set the world alight but I didn’t expect him to. What he has shown us is the standard of player that we need to bring in.
If Newcastle are to go anywhere in the future, then players of Almiron’s level should be the bare minimum and over the course of five years we should be looking to improve the team so much that a player like Almiron would be left behind. Obviously I am in fantasy land so I will step out for one moment.
It is clear Rafa isn’t getting the best out of him yet and that is to do with the formation (in my non-expert opinion of course). The 5-2-2-1 formation clicked at the right time for us and it suits the way the squad is built with strong options in defence.
As of next season though, if Rafa is still here, then I would expect Almiron to be given a central role and as our main £20 million ‘record’ signing, I would also expect him to start chipping in with goals and assists that have eluded him so far.
Do you think real progress can be made at NUFC under Mike Ashley, regardless of whether Rafa stays or not?
No. 100% no.
Do you think any of the criticism about Rafa’s tactics is fair, not just when playing the ‘big’ teams but also against the rest?
Not really but as I have mentioned above, if Rafa is foolish enough to sign a new contract then I will expect a better standard of football to what he puts out at the moment.
I will not settle for him signing a new contract and saying ‘Yes I am happy with you Mr Ashley’ and then serving up completely negative tactics because the team doesn’t compare to the likes of Watford and Crystal Palace.
With the players/resources available to him, which position in the table would/should Rafa Benitez have been fairly expected to achieve?
Anything above relegation this season is another achievement for Rafa Benitez given the lack of investment last summer.
The fact we have reached this stage of the season with safety looking pretty certain (barring a minor miracle of results from Cardiff) then I think that can be considered a success.
This is especially the case when you consider that is a side that has played most of the season with no recognised left back, inexperienced players such as Hayden/Longstaff in the middle, Perez as the main man and only one striking option in Rondon.
Rafa Benitez was desperate for help in the January transfer window to fight relegation, did what ended up happening (the final day bringing Almiron in and the loan of Barreca) equal full support for the manager?
Not in the slightest. You can guarantee that Almiron was only signed because of extensive pressure from fan groups, the threat of many not renewing their season tickets and the off-chance that Rafa may walk halfway through the season (see many of his press conference quotes prior to the deadline).
If you are foolish enough to think the Almiron signing is a sign that Mike Ashley has changed at all then see a few things;
The inner workings of the signing (it is not even a record signing yet).
The length it took to get the signing done and the saga that went with it.
No other buys were made.
Has the unexpected success of Sean Longstaff given you hope of more young players making it at Newcastle and should Rafa be looking to give young players more of a chance?
No and then yes. I know the academy system in the North East quite well and let me assure you that Sean Longstaff is not an example that the system works. If it wasn’t for a spectacular amount of luck, and different variables coming together at once (injuries, suspensions, Christmas period, Asian Cup etc) then Longstaff would be nowhere near the first team and would likely be out on loan now at Portsmouth. That is the sad truth.
Sean Longstaff is not an example of a young player that was being slowly blended into the first team picture with the view to him becoming a permanent fixture in the side. He simply found himself in the right place at the right time and he took his chance with both hands. Fair play to him, I couldn’t be any happier for him and if he reaches 75% of the standard he reached before he got injured then we will have a decent player on our hands.
Longstaff is an example that you should give youth players more of a chance. If injuries arise next season and we are left with Dubravka being suspended, then throw Woodman in there. If our main strikers are injured, then why not give Sorensen a game and see if he can do it. Sean Longstaff has proved that if given the chance, then it can be done.
Would Rafa ever do that? Unless he had absolutely no other choice (as was the case with Longstaff). I wrote an article two years ago which documented Rafa’s record with youth and it doesn’t make for great reading.
Whoever the manager is next season, whether it be Rafa or a new one, there will be pressure on them to perform and more often than not, that means youth players will be cast aside.
You can follow the author on Twitter @_jonathandc
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