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Opinion

Newcastle United miss out on massive opportunity – A year too early in the project

1 year ago
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We are now eleven months into the Newcastle United project.

Juts twenty days to go when the new owners will have their first anniversary, after Mike Ashley handed the keys over.

Newcastle United were in a total mess and only heading in one direction, relegation looked nailed on.

It was a project Mike Ashley had been working on for some time, annual dalliances with possible relegation, set to become the real thing once again, an impressive third relegation in thirteen Premier League seasons under Ashley.

As we know now, that didn’t become reality, instead the new owners and Eddie Howe met the relegation threat head on and with a combination of squad investment and Howe’s expertise, NUFC became the first PL era club to win none of their first 14 games of the season but still stay up.

This was undoubtedly stage one of the Newcastle United project, staying up.

So then a case of how quickly success could now be built?

Along with others, I saw this season as a real opportunity. For other clubs and especially Newcastle United.

The usual suspects facing a season where they could be vulnerable. The ‘big six’ having to cope with those extra European games on top of a Premier League schedule being played in a far tighter timeframe due to the World Cup in mid-season. Also, the fact is that these usual top / big six will have a disproportionate number of players out at the World Cup, meaning surely that they will struggle to play as many PL games as they would usually do, plus their levels of performance set to drop as well with the extra games.

Sadly, for Newcastle United, I think we are set to miss out on a massive opportunity, it has come along a year too early in the project.

Let me explain.

I know I am stating the obvious but under Mike Ashley the squad had seriously stagnated, summed up by the fact that only Joe Willock was signed in the entire final year and two transfer windows under the former owner, whilst a ridiculous series of new contracts were handed out to existing players who should instead have been moved out and replaced.

The new Newcastle United owners instead having to deal with the fallout / consequences of this scenario of running the club into the ground, with Eddie Howe and Dan Ashworth now at the heart of working out how to turn the squad around.

In the past eight and a bit months we have seen nine new permanent signings – Trippier, Burn, Bruno, Wood, Targett, Isak, Botman, Pope and Karius.

Whilst we saw Dubravka, Fernandez, Matty Longstaff and Kell Watts all heading out on deadline day of the summer window, they followed out Isaac Hayden, Lewis Cass, Freddie Woodman, Jeff Hendrick, Dan Langley, Dwight Gayle and Ciaran Clark.

With nine in and eleven out, that is a serious turnover.

However, it is abundantly clear now, this is just the start.

This has now left Eddie Howe with the following 28 Newcastle United players:

Goalkeepers (four)

Pope, Darlow, Gillespie, Karius

Defenders (ten)

Targett, Manquillo, Dummett, Lewis, Trippier, Botman, Burn, Lascelles, Schar, Krafth

Midfielders (five)

Joelinton, Bruno, Willock, Sean Longstaff, Shelvey

Forwards / Wingers (nine)

Ritchie, Murphy, Almiron, ASM, Fraser, Wilson, Wood, Isak, Anderson

Twenty five of these make up the official Premier League senior squad for the first half of the season, with then Elliot Anderson still an under 21 player and additional to the 25 senior PL squad, Krafth set to be out for the season, with Mark Gillespie the one left out of the 25 man squad.

Injuries have hit Newcastle United hard, early this season. They have made it a stark reminder of just how many of our squad players are way short of the quality of our better players AND just how much further we need to go in terms of turning this Newcastle United squad around.

As I say above, I think this season’s opportunity to attack those potentially vulnerable top six places, some of them anyway, have come 12 months too early for Newcastle United.

In this next year and two transfer windows (January 2023 and summer 2023), I think we will see another similar turnover to what we have seen already.

When we reach the end of the summer 2023 transfer window, of the existing Newcastle United players, I think we could be looking at something like this, in terms of who is still at St James’ Park:

Goalkeepers (four)

Pope, Darlow,

Defenders (ten)

Targett, Trippier, Botman, Burn, Schar, Krafth

Midfielders (five)

Joelinton, Bruno, Willock, Sean Longstaff, Shelvey

Forwards / Wingers (nine)

Almiron, ASM, Fraser, Wilson, Wood, Isak, Anderson

Gillespie, Dummett and Ritchie are all out of contract on 30 June 2023, so they will be gone by then at the latest, whilst Karius only on a short-term deal which I am guessing will be extended to the end of this season and then he leaves (or Darlow does!).

Meanwhile, I think Manquillo, Lascelles, Lewis and Murphy will also be moved out by the time that summer 2023 window ends.

In addition, I think very likely that in a year’s time at least one of Sean Longstaff or Joe Willock will be at a new club, then the same with Miguel Almiron and / or Ryan Fraser.

It then all comes down of course to how much money is made available by the Newcastle United owners AND what Eddie Howe and Dan Ashworth do with that cash.

What I believe is going to happen for sure, is that we will see year on year investment and that at the end of August 2023, only twenty two months into the new ownership era, we will have a massively different Newcastle United squad. Looking at over twenty players having been moved out and around possibly 15 or so new era permanent signings having been made in the first four transfer windows under these new owners.

A far better Newcastle United starting eleven AND a far stronger strength squad.

Whilst Elliot Anderson will also be a year older and more experienced, this exciting prospect possibly even a first team regular by then.

Seven games in and yesterday Eddie Howe was having to rely on Sean Longstaff and Jacob Murphy to come on and turn a 1-1 draw into a win. Even with a similar injury list, in twelve months time this most definitely won’t be the case.

There have been massive changes at Newcastle United on the playing side already these past eight or so months BUT many more are needed to get us where we want / need to be.

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