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Opinion

John Barnes with laughable comments on Newcastle United ambition

4 weeks ago
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John Barnes has been talking about Newcastle United.

The former player looking ahead to the 2022/23 Premier League season.

It is now 25 years since John Barnes joined Newcastle United, arriving on a free transfer from Liverpool.

Barnes turned 34 only four days after that 1997/98 PL season kicked off, Newcastle United having finished runners-up in the Premier League in each of the previous two seasons. However, dropping to thirteenth in that bizarre season as Newcastle’s owners put the brakes on any ambition, despite having qualified for the Champions League. That injury to Alan Shearer and the sale of Les Ferdinand were massive, whilst the recruitment by Kenny Dalglish of free transfer old timers Ian Rush, Stuart Pearce and John Barnes, was a little bizarre.

Stuart Pearce later claimed in his autobiography that John Barnes was overweight when arriving at Newcastle United and that both Barnes and Rush lacked the necessary desire by the time they came to St James Park.

Now 25 years on, what does John Barnes see Newcastle United striving for ahead of this rapidly approaching new Premier League season, which is only nine weeks away.

John Barnes declaring ‘Newcastle should aim to come 10th next season. If they aim higher and don’t win matches, they’ll get very disappointed and slip back to where they were before. They have to walk before they can run, and while they finished the season fantastically well, that doesn’t mean they’ll challenge for the top five or six.’

What kind of nonsense is that?

Aiming for tenth?

Newcastle United have just finished eleventh after the new owners and Eddie Howe despite inheriting a nightmare shambles mid-season, yet the ambition should be restricted to going one place higher…?

In the second-half of the season, Eddie Howe and his team took 38 points from the final 19 matches at an average of exactly 2.00 points per match. Over a full 38 game season that average would equal 76 points and that total would have given you third place last season and second back in 2020/21!

Even if you take Eddie Howe’s entire spell so far, he inherited a team that was nowhere near fit enough, a team and club that were staring at relegation, with only five points and no wins from eleven PL games, yet in his 27 PL matches last season, Eddie Howe picked up 44 points in those games, at an average of 1.63 points. Over a full 38 match season that average would give you 62 points, enough for sixth place last season and four points more than Man Utd got, who finished in sixth.

Not a single person inside Newcastle United will be saying that the aim is to try and finish tenth next season. Even if you ignore those points totals achieved under Eddie Howe last season, there is no reason why Newcastle shouldn’t be saying that just like no doubt the likes of West Ham, Leicester, Wolves and others, they are aiming for the top six.

That is NOT the same as saying anybody expects that Newcastle United will automatically / definitely finish in the top half dozen BUT in any walk of life you surely have to aim to be the best you can be. Kevin Keegan was the ultimate in always insisting you had to aim for the stars and then if you fell a little short of that, then that’s just how things turn out.

Having a mindset of aiming for tenth is such a negative, when you consider not only that form from last season under Eddie Howe, but also the excellent recruitment in January and in particular, the way that Howe improved so many players. Joelinton is quite literally, feeling like a new star player, whilst with Schar, Dubravka and others, he has reminded us that they are Premier League players, capable of holding their own.

With more recruitment to come this summer and a full pre-season for Eddie Howe to really get to work, why shouldn’t Newcastle be aiming for the stars, or at least sixth…

The likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Man Utd aren’t some impossible clubs to get past potentially next season, Leicester finishing fifth in both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons and both times should have ended top four, only to throw it away late on.

The thing is as well, the talk inside Newcastle United has to be about progression, about aiming to move up the table as quickly as possible. That is essential if you are to stand a chance of keeping the likes of Bruno Guimaraes and satisfying Kieran Trippier he made the right choice. Likewise, when talking to transfer targets this summer, I don’t think telling aspiring stars of the future that tenth is the aim next season, will get them thinking NUFC is the place to be.

This 2022/23 season in particular, with a World Cup bang in the middle of it, could potentially really open up possibilities for one or more clubs to make serious progress up the table. Of course it will be all one match at a time if you ask Eddie Howe, or indeed any other manager, BUT if the opportunity is there to have a real breakthrough season, you absolutely know that Eddie Howe and the new owners will be absolutely doing everything to grasp that chance.

John Barnes speaking to BonusCodeBets about Newcastle United:

“Newcastle should aim to come 10th next season.

“If they aim higher and don’t win matches, they’ll get very disappointed and slip back to where they were before.

“They have to walk before they can run, and while they finished the season fantastically well, that doesn’t mean they’ll challenge for the top five or six.

“If they put too much pressure on the team, it might not work out for them.

“They have to take baby steps.

“Knowing that the future looks good with the players looking to cement their place in the team, rather than thinking about other players coming in.

“They’re sensible enough to know that and Eddie Howe has done a great job so far.”

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