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Opinion

Newcastle United fans experience massive reality check

2 weeks ago
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Newcastle United fans have already had a busy week and we are only a few days into it.

Dan Ashworth finally confirmed as the club’s Sporting Director and getting stuck straight into what is a massive job ahead.

The new NUFC home shirt for the 2022/23 season at last officially released, no surprise that the leaked photos that circulated weeks ago were shown to be on the money.

Then we have the transfer market.

Ahead of the transfer window officially opening on Friday (10 June), Newcastle United already with one in and one out.

Neither of them a massive surprise, Isaac Hayden having seemingly made clear at the end of the season that he was moving on, whilst Matt Targett had made it crystal clear that he was very keen on moving in, on a permanent basis.

With the Isaac Hayden deal, I think it has clearly been a massive reality check for so many Newcastle United fans.

When the loan deal (with obligation to buy if certain targets are met) to Norwich City was announced, I saw countless comments from Newcastle United fans. So many of then bemused that it was a Championship club that Isaac Hayden was heading to.

To be honest, I think this has been a constant for so long, so many Newcastle United fans believing, or at least wanting to believe, that so many in the NUFC squad are better than they really are. I’m not having a go at the players here, whether Isaac Hayden or whoever, they can’t change their level of ability. All we expect is that they do their best and that is what Hayden and so many others have done in recent years.

However, I think sadly the overestimating the ability of a significant number of existing Newcastle United players, by both Newcastle United fans and indeed the vast majority of the regular NUFC media, made life far easier for Mike Ashley than it should have been.

Honestly, I can remember so many times reacting in total disbelief to how Newcastle United fans reacted as player after player were awarded ridiculous new contracts these past couple of years, as Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce steered Newcastle United determinedly towards disaster.

In September 2020, Karl Darlow given a new five year contract and Isaac Hayden a six year one. I couldn’t believe it. I certainly couldn’t believe the reaction from so many Newcastle United fans. Heralding these as great news. Forget all about who is dead canny, great blokes, or whatever, giving ridiculous contracts like these to players who aren’t of the level to be first choices at any Premier League club, never mind one looking to do anything other than fight relegation, was just inviting disaster.

Only last year (2021), a new six (SIX) year deal for Jacob Murphy!!! Again, dead canny lad he seems, lifelong Newcastle fan…but what was that all about? In no shape or form is he a player who will ever be first choice for a Premier League team. Well at least not one who won’t be automatically fighting relegation.

The list goes on – Matt Ritchie, Ciaran Clark, Dwight Gayle…

All of them crazy new contracts that should never have happened and wouldn’t have, at a properly run club.

It now left to Eddie Howe and the new owners to sort out the massive mess they inherited, with a key part of that all these players on Premier League contracts, who aren’t PL level players. At least they aren’t now.

The likes of Hayden, Clark, Ritchie and Gayle were all brought in by Rafa Benitez in 2016 to help get Newcastle United out of the Championship. He could never have imagined that six years later Newcastle would be in this situation regarding these players still being at the club, never mind the daft new contracts they have been awarded since Rafa’s departure. The situation then made all the worst with terrible signings such as Jeff Hendrick, another one clearly not a Premier League level player but given a four year contract that still has two years left to go.

I’m no fan of Jonjo Shelvey either and think he should have been moved on some time ago, not given a new contract, yes he has played well at times but in six and a half years I would say that those good games form a very low percentage. At least he is one of the few amongst those that Newcastle United will want to move on (in my opinion) who should get a Premier League move, albeit a club towards the bottom end. Eddie Howe looking to play a higher press, more attacking game, that requires midfielders to be mobile and do a lot of work, Shelvey not capable of doing that.

Jamaal Lascelles a similar case, though he has been a good character, always putting the effort in. It is just though a case of time to move on because he has so little ability on the ball, he will really struggle in this new Eddie Howe era where Newcastle will be looking to play far more progressive football.

I think this group of of players pretty much represents the list of summer outgoings the Newcastle United hierarchy were / are hoping for, though accepting you aren’t going to be able to move them all on, in reality…

Jamaal Lascelles, Isaac Hayden, Matt Ritchie, Federico Fernandez, Karl Darlow, Dwight Gayle, Jeff Hendrick, Ciaran Clark, Freddie Woodman, Kell Watts, Matty Longstaff, Javier Manquillo, Jacob Murphy, Jonjo Shelvey

As I say, Lascelles and Shelvey almost certainly able to get another Premier League club, though at the bottom end.

However, just like Hayden, pretty much all the rest looking at Championship (or lower / overseas) clubs to take them off Newcastle’s hands.

I think Manquillo could be an exception, whilst maybe in time Freddie Woodman can make it back to the Premier League if signing up to a Championship club and proving himself.

There have of course been new shorter contracts handed out by the new NUFC owners to the likes of Schar and Dummett and I think these are decent moves. Both players having turned 30 but the pair having shown they can play at Premier League level still, though the one year deal for Dummett very sensible, great cover provided by a player who has been blighted by injury problems but who can step in, as he showed in that massively important win at Leeds, and do a job still.

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