With this Newcastle United takeover I have never wanted to be more wrong about something
Along with a number of other regular/irregular writers for The Mag, I was sent some end of season Newcastle United related questions.
With so much uncertainty I thought I would hold off for a bit.
However, we are now already into June and with uncertainty only growing regarding the owner, manager and transfer window, I thought it was time to answer a few of those questions.
In general, I would consider this season a pretty positive one.
We finally broke our transfer record, even if it was way overdue.
We saw the emergence of Sean Longstaff.
The best season yet from Ayoze Perez.
A resurgence in midfield from the excellent Issac Hayden.
And a proper bullish target man in the number 9 shirt, who allowed to us to compete in games we would have previously lost easily.
However, another timid home cup exit, combined with the ever-present uncertainty over Rafa Benitez’s contract, meant it couldn’t be seen as an entirely positive season.
Strangely though, I actually found it far more enjoyable than the previous season, despite a drop of three league places. This team is better now than the one that ended the 2017/18 season, and if Rafa’s future is guaranteed, I may even begin to feel sneakily optimistic.
You never know though with this being Newcastle United, let’s just see what the summer brings. Anyway, below are my answers to some of the end of season issues.
Will the reported Newcastle United takeover happen this summer?
My gut feeling is no, it seems to be another case of too much protracted talk in the media and an ever-changing story.
Most football takeovers (particularly at the big clubs in England) come out of nowhere, often without the mainstream media having a sniff of the story.
I should add that I have never wanted to be more wrong about anything before. Here’s hoping.
Does Mike Ashley really want Rafa Benitez to stay?
I believe so…but not at the price of major promises.
He knows Benitez is a manger who can near enough guarantee safety on a limited budget, probably the only coach who can realistically offer this. This should make MA want to keep Rafa, but the very nature of Ashley’s approach, will mean he won’t be made promises around making the club more competitive. As always, guessing Ashley is a dangerous game.
What do you think would be the minimum needed to convince Rafa to extend his contract this summer?
Rafa has too much intelligence and understanding of football to base signing a new contract, solely on the figure of the transfer budget. I do not believe he has a golden minimum figure in mind for the transfer budget and if it is met he will sign, instead I think it’s more complex than that. He wants assurances that the club will at least try and be more competitive, potentially push for top eight, and be given a squad that can have a real crack at the domestic cups.
Three words that describe your current mood regarding Newcastle United?
Satisfied but frustrated.
The three positions most in need of strengthening?
Striker (especially if Rondon is not signed, but I think we need another anyway). Central midfield (if Hayden leaves, this could become hugely important) Right back/Right wing-back.
With level of signings you anticipate, how high do you think Newcastle can aim next season?
I don’t anticipate a whirlwind of transfer activity, as I don’t believe the takeover is happening. I think Benitez will be given room to re-jig the squad and with four or five quality additions in the right areas of the squad, we should be able to secure safety far earlier in the season (February/March?).
I would aim for starting the season well first and foremost, then we could properly attack the League Cup. League position-wise we should at least be aiming for 10th and I know Rafa would like to go for 8th or 7th.
Definitely need to keep for next season?:
Ayoze Perez, Matt Ritchie, Salomon Rondon, Issac Hayden (if possible), Martin Dubravka.
Need to be moved on?:
Jacob Murphy, Jack Colback. Sad considering they are both boyhood Toon fans but both are needed off the wage bill. I will drive Colback to his new club if needed.
Another I may have on this list is Ciaran Clark, I don’t think he deserves to be discarded after three very solid campaigns for us, but he is probably now our 5th choice centre half. Maybe 6th if you include Dummett, and he deserves a greater chance of playing football, although equally we need strength in depth if we are to properly attack the cups.
Favourite moment of last season?
Whilst the win over Man City was remarkable, even more so considering the run they had after that game. For me though, the Everton turnaround was an incredible day in the ground, and gave us real breathing space at the bottom, it also showed how good this team can be, and what Rafa could do with bigger investment and more ambition from the top. The Perez clincher right in front of me was a moment of absolute ecstasy. It would be nice to have more of those days.
What do you make of everything that has happened/is happening at Sunderland?
I did first find it a bit much when they went down to League 1, hilarious as the Mackems being relegated by Burton was.
They are surely too big for that division and will get up sooner rather than later, I would think. The one thing that should save them, even if finances remain bad, is their academy has a track record of producing players. They will need that more than ever in the next few seasons.
They are now so far behind, they are almost becoming irrelevant for me and I don’t think the next derby is happening anytime soon.
Don’t get me wrong though, I was going absolutely berserk in a quayside pub when Charlton stuck in the 94th minute winner. Absolutely magic.
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