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Opinion

Former Newcastle strikers top Championship scorers – Massive mistake letting them go or just way it is?

4 weeks ago
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For Newcastle United fans, looking down at the Championship currently makes interesting reading.

Especially when it comes to goalscoring, a major problem in recent times for NUFC.

After Tuesday night’s matches the Championship top scorers sees two strikers way out at the top.

After scoring another two for Blackburn last night, Adam Armstrong now has nine goals this season at a rate of one every 77 minutes, with a shot accuracy of 70% (all stats via BBC Sport).

Second in the Championship scorers list is Ivan Toney with eight goals, scoring every 84 minutes on average, with a shot accuracy of 74%.

A distant third in the second tier goalscoring list is Lucas Joao of Reading, he has five goals at an average of one every 105 minutes, a shot accuracy of 64%.

Adam Armstrong and Ivan Toney left Newcastle United within three days of each other.

It was the summer of 2018 and actually there were three strikers sold within an 11 day period, Aleksandar Mitrovic 29 July 2018, then Adam Armstrong 5 August 2018 and Ivan Toney 8 August 2018.

Summer 2018 when Mike Ashley totally undermined Rafa Benitez, allowing him zero net spend, in fact, instead insisting on a £20m profit on transfers in and out that summer.

Mitro’s sale took all the headlines of course but Adam Armstrong signed permanently for Blackburn with a transfer fee of around £1.5m reported, plus a major sell-on clause for when / if Rovers sell him. For Toney, the fee reported to be £500,000 and when sold to Brentford this summer for a reported £10m, Newcastle claimed to have received another £3m (30%) of the sale price.

So was it a massive mistake selling on Ivan Toney and / or Adam Armstrong, or just the way it is?

Here is a tale of three strikers and a few key facts:

Adam Armstrong 

Age 23 (born 10 February 1997)

Has scored 25 goals in 48 Championship starts in 2019/20 and 2020/21.

Has already scored 66 goals in league football, 74 goals in all first team matches.

Ivan Toney

Age 24 (born 16 March 1996)

Scored 48 goals in 78 League One starts since February 2018.

Has scored 85 goals in league football so far, 100 in all first team matches.

Joelinton

Age 24 (born 14 August 1996)

Has scored 9 goals in his last 60 league starts in 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21.

Has scored 30 goals in his league career so far, 24 in the five years four months since arriving in Europe and signing for Hoffenheim in June 2015.

Has scored 45 goals in his entire club career, 35 in total playing for European clubs since June 2015.

This isn’t a pile on Joelinton article but it does raise major questions, when it comes to Premier League clubs, not just Newcastle, giving young players chances.

However, Newcastle United do have it worse than most.

Steve Bruce goes on about bringing kids through but is that really true?

Under Mike Ashley, a big issue with younger players is how few first team matches there are in cup competitions to give them a chance in a less pressurised environment. A series of draws picking out lower division teams has obviously meant the possibility of opportunities for younger players but against Newport for example, Sean Longstaff was the only NUFC player aged under 25 who started and he turns 23 in only two days time.

It was Rafa Benitez of course who was in charge at Newcastle United when both Adam Armstrong and Ivan Toney were sold and in actual fact he (Rafa) did play far more young players in the cup matches, though that was more to do with having a small squad and Benitez insisting he needed his small group of reliable first team players for the Premier League relegation battles.

With constantly fighting relegation, it does make it very difficult to give young players a chance.

There is now a growing trend for Premier League clubs to look more at the promising players in England below the top tier, especially those who can create and score goals. Some serious money changing hands in just 2020, with the likes of Benrahma and Bowen going to West Ham, Grant to West Brom, Watkins to Villa…

If Ivan Toney and Adam Armstrong keep the goals flowing, then surely their time will come very shortly, if not bids in January, surely summer 2021 will see at least one if not both former Newcastle United strikers moving up into the Premier League.

The pair have already scored 174 goals in club football, albeit in the lower leagues and in cup competitions.

However, the pair are clearly natural goalscorers and yet Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce insist on paying £40m (Ashley says £43m) on Joelinton, a player who had no great goalscoring record and who now Bruce admits isn’t really a centre-forward, nor a natural goalscorer. With only 45 goals in his entire career at the age of 24, I think we can all see that!

Another comparison could be made with Mitrovic, he is two years older than Joelinton and whilst he may have other weaknesses the Serbian is definitely a goalscorer. Mitro has scored 183 goals in his career so far, for clubs and country.

The good news is that finally Mike Ashley has allowed the buying of a natural goalscorer, one with a few miles on the clock, Callum Wilson turns 29 in February and at £20m.

Even Ashley accepting that the mess he had created in pushing the likes of Rondon and Perez out of the club along with Rafa, in order to bring a patsy head coach in and push through his mad replacement transfers of Joelinton and Carroll (no PL goals in the past 30 months), meant he had no other option than to buy a striker with little or no sell on value BUT one who might score goals.

So was it a massive error for Rafa Benitez / Newcastle United to sell Ivan Toney and / or Adam Armstrong?

Well, I think basically it all comes down to Newcastle being such a rotten and badly run club under Mike Ashley.

With better and ambitious owners and a long-term properly funded strategy right through the club, players like Toney and Armstrong could have been handled far better. Instead, under Ashley it is always a case of fire fighting, dealing with the latest crisis, trying to avoid relegation, not backing talented managers like Keegan and Benitez, the owner then spending the bigger money when he is in control of transfers and has a patsy like Bruce or McClaren in place.

So if we are looking to blame anybody if Ivan Toney and / or Adam Armstrong go on to become Premier League stars and goalscorers elsewhere, the only man that should really be blamed is Mike Ashley.

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