The low point of relegation seems now a distant memory with Newcastle going from strength to strength ever since, but we still find ourselves a bit light in terms of quality in depth.
As with any club, accumulated injuries over course of a season mean the squad is as important as your first eleven, and although we have some decent players as back-up, some are realistically not good enough to continue our progression in the future.
Even the most optimistic of supporters will admit our league position has exceeded all expectations and with a strong finish we could well be in the mix for a European place, but personally I want that to be the case every season, not just when we have a hot season.
For this to be a realistic ambition every season, we do need a stronger squad, and hopefully we see more Graham Carr gems and quality signings come in over the summer to replace those who move to pastures new, but strengthening a squad can be a tricky business.
Unless you are a Man City or Chelsea, with money burn and wage bills through the roof, it can be difficult to keep players happy while they sit on the fringes of the first team waiting for their opportunity. In some positions, injuries mean they get decent game time, but in others they may not see much at all, and even those that do may get a taste for it and become unhappy with warming the bench again.
Danny Guthrie is a good example of this. No doubt the lad is a decent player but the taste of first team football along with his age means he is not willing to slope back into the shadows and could well leave in the summer to be an ever-present in a Premier League side.
So without offering huge wages or the guarantee of Champions League football and the push for two domestic cups, opportunities for those on the fringes may be somewhat limited until we find ourselves in a position to excel in four competitions.
This can make life difficult to significantly strengthen and more often than not teams can find themselves replacing rather than improving, much like Everton and Aston Villa have done during the years they found themselves finishing under the Champions League contenders.
Newcastle’s steady progression could be halted somewhat by the same situation and we could find ourselves simply paying out to replace the likes of a Danny Guthrie and others of similar standard to those they replace rather than making that next step up and becoming a genuine Champions League contender.
Hopefully this is not the case and Graham Carr can work his magic again. The confirmed positive for the summer is Mike Ashley’s intention to invest heavily in the reserve and academy set-up so we should gain more quality in depth in that regard, but whether these players would be ready to come into a Premier League side if needed is not a certainty. Time will tell.
The level of investment in the first team could depend on attaining a European position and if achieved will also make life a lot easier in terms of ability to sign quality players, but if Europe is not achieved this season, could we see Newcastle’s progression stall?
Some of the signings we made over the past couple of years would suggest not, but we have relied heavily on Graham Carr and his team unearthing diamonds in the rough. To improve to Champions League standard, we will need a healthy mix of players like that and proven names, and I’m not so sure we can compete with the competition just yet.
Certain players have been linked, the most recent and well known of which being Jan Vertonghen. Other players on the Newcastle radar would be the likes of Douglas Teixeira, Junior Hoilett, Mapou Mbiwa and Benjamin Corgnet. By no means proven world class as yet and I would expect we would have a chance of signing any of the aforementioned, but we will have competition.
If we did sign players of that standard, would they be guaranteed first team football? Would they want that guarantee? If so, would we lose players who become back-up? On the latter, I would like to think not but I expect we would.
Scouring the globe for the next big thing is obviously a great thing for the club and buying younger players means they will be content to come in, develop and await their chance, but anyone coming into their mid-twenties or anyone with a growing name in football will no doubt want significant playing time.
I pray for Europe and subsequent investment to make life a whole lot easier on Newcastle and help take us to the next level but if it is not achieved, I hope we can still attract players of quality in a summer that could be littered with big team signings.
Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs will all want to improve significantly on this season. Man City will no doubt spend to solidify their position as Premier League and Champions League contenders and in-turn Man Utd will have to improve to keep pace.
Newcastle have barely put a foot wrong since returning to the Premier League and it is exciting times for supporters, but I think the rejuvination project has come to a pivotal crossroads now, and really hope we don’t go the way of Everton or Aston Villa.
Interested in what others think. Can we compete for big name signings? Can we hold on to players? Or will it be a case of replacing rather than improving for the next few seasons?