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Opinion

Dividing the credit for Newcastle’s 31 points: Bruce, Ashley, Rafa, the players, luck, defence, strikers…?

2 months ago
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During this Premier League mid-season break, time to take stock at Newcastle United.

At the two thirds of the season stage, Newcastle are on 31 points after 25 Premier League matches and moving into February, still in the FA Cup!

None of it has been particularly easy on the eye but how do you see the current state of affairs at Newcastle United?

We have asked a number of regular/irregular writers for The Mag to answer various sets of pertinent questions, next up is Paul Patterson.

With 17 of Newcastle’s current 26 man first team squad seeing their deals end by June 2021 at latest, what do you think is happening with contracts and why?

Mike Ashley doesn’t do long term planning does he.

The contract situation for players at the club is a joke, especially in the case of Matty Longstaff. Unless another club has already offered him a deal I’m confident that he will sign an extension as I don’t believe that Ashley will allow a multi million pound player go for a paltry £400k, a bumper contract is likely to be thrown at him.

Andy Carroll has turned out to be exactly what people expected him to be – a crock, so he doesn’t concern me. I feel Federico Fernandez won’t be retained as he is the wrong side of thirty, which is a pity because he’s our best out and out defender. Manquillo should be easily upgraded and Rob Elliot will be let go.

Rest assured Danny Rose won’t be kept as once again he doesn’t fit into the right age bracket, which is a pity because he has pedigree. The biggest plus is we will finally see the back of the biggest waste of space to darken a Newcastle shirt for many a year in Jack Colback.

Was the January 2020 transfer window a success for NUFC?

No! Our problems were up front but we signed midfielders and a left back.

The only reason we went for Danny Rose was due to the fact that we lost Paul Dummett for the season, otherwise the window would have been even more of a shambles. The trouble with this club is that it doesn’t do GOOD business in the summer. Whatever business it does do is nowhere near what is required.

In losing the goals of Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez we have left ourselves way way short. The summer window was this seasons Achilles heel, not January, and Ashley simply trusted to luck that it would all work out fine in the end.

What do you think are the chances of any or all of Rose, Bentaleb and Lazaro staying?

Slim on Danny Rose due to his age. Bentaleb and Lazaro depends on how well they do but they do come across as loan signings that were made simply to appease the fans, make it look like they were doing something and to try and help out Joelinton, rather than actually do the decent thing and sign a proper striker.

Are Newcastle safe, or capable of still been dragged back into relegation trouble?

I think we WILL be safe but we certainly are NOT safe, seven points off relegation is quite precarious. That said we are only six points off a Europa League place.

It’s a very poor league and it has been skewed by the fact that Arsenal, Man Utd and Tottenham have been awful for large parts of the season. We won’t be as lucky as to have three big teams as bad as those three next season.

Have you enjoyed this season?

I haven’t been to see a game in person this season as I won’t be back to watch them in any stadium until Ashley sells up but the games I have seen on TV have followed a familiar pattern. They have been poor games to watch where the opposition have shaded things no matter what the final score.

As for games I’ve missed but followed the reports on, the stats have been horrendously bad for the most part and the games against Everton away and Chelsea at home were daylight robbery in our favour.

People I’ve spoke to that have been in attendance have said that we’ve bordered on poor to unwatchable all season, apart for the odd few moments here and there, and even Steve Bruce’s comments after games strangely back that up, which is a worry.

How do you feel about Newcastle United compared to 12 months ago?

Here’s the thing. Even WITH Ashley as owner, we had one thing with Rafa Benitez- Hope.

A world class manager (not Head Coach) that you could see him building something.

Was it pretty? No, not for long periods but he played the hand he was dealt. The Fulham home (0-0) game last season is often highlighted as a game that was dire and unwatchable and it was, I should know because I was there. But if Rafa had been given an honest transfer budget with no smoke and mirrors, we would have seen the project that he kept talking about progress forward.

We certainly wouldn’t have signed Joelinton and we would most likely have kept Rondon and/or Perez. His judgement on Joelinton becomes more honest and scathing with each passing week.

In short, it was a missed opportunity with Benitez, the fact he was driven out because of spite from the owner is even more damning. Put simply, Mike Ashley can keep his shell of a football club because I’m not actively supporting it until he has gone.

NUFC on 31 points after 25 games, how would you divide the credit for it between: Steve Bruce, Mike Ashley, Rafa Benitez, the character of the players, luck, Dubravka, the defence, the strikers…?

Benitez built the defence including the goalkeeper and he also set the formation. The players STILL have his influence.

Whenever Bruce has strayed from the system Benitez put in place it has ended pretty badly, that’s very telling.

Mike Ashley orchestrated the Joelinton deal and he’s been a massive flop.

I’ll ask anyone the question: Put Salomon Rondon in this side even WITH Bruce and I promise you we would be in Europe by now.

The fact that defenders are outscoring strikers is shameful. Steve Bruce has actually cost us a few injuries this season something which wouldn’t have happened under Benitez.

Roughly? Benitez 35% Players Character 35%. Luck 30% Bruce 0% Ashley 0%.

Everybody fit and a must win game, which 11 players would you pick from current squad?

(5-2-1-2) Dubravka, Rose, Fernandez, Lascelles, Schar, Yedlin, M Longstaff, Shelvey, Almiron, Carroll, Gayle. Keep Saint-Maximin as an impact sub.

TAKEOVER

Is Mike Ashley seriously trying to sell?

Was he ever?

It’s funny how every time something crops up that is a problem to him, he wheels out the takeover story (commonly known to Toon fans as the ‘fakeover’). This occurs when there is a protest or a transfer window is in progress.

I’m not buying it and and I’m amazed that some still do. As an aside, if you go back and ask your parents or grandparents about Newcastle United having to give 10,000 tickets away FREE to fill the ground, they would think you’re insane. All down to Mike Ashley.

Are there one or more bidders seriously trying to buy the club?

I’ll contradict myself here slightly from the last question. Ashley may actively look for bidders but he is certainly not actively going to sell unless a stupid offer comes in. Would you sell a Golden Goose if it continuously lays golden eggs? While we are on the Premier League gravy train, he’s going nowhere and neither is the club.

Do you think there will be a new owner(s) by the time the 2020/21 season kicks off.

Emphatically, No! The dice will be rolled once more and Premier league survival will be the name of the game.

Is VAR a good thing for the Premier League?

I’m not a fan of someone who is not in the ground making the decision. In the Internationals last year the referee was drawn to a potential incident and he himself went over and made judgement. That’s what I thought was going to happen.

There have been some odd VAR decisions this season and some have just been plain wrong. Also, the time it takes to come to a decision is bad for the TV audience so lord knows how frustrating it must be for those in the stadium. Plus, it seems that if an attacking player’s toenail is further forward than the opposing player he is deemed offside. Surely you want MORE goals in games rather than chalking them off for such trivialities and punishing quick players?

The game is being slowed down by stealth. Referees and linesmen got decisions wrong before and yes it was frustrating but it’s still happening and we have the technology to review mistakes. That can’t be right. Much work needed on VAR.

What do you see the future holding for Joelinton after this season?

Put simply, he can’t be as bad next season as he has been this one.

Also, playing him wide left would be a help as the lad is NOT a striker and never will be and if we’ve paid £40m for him then someone needs sacking.

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