I think everyone would agree that Newcastle have been the dark horses of this campaign, whether you’re a fan of NUFC or not.
The team spirit, morale, unity and teamwork is fantastic, shown whenever the players are warming up before a match, or when a player is substituted and we see smiles, high fives and jokes going all around the dugout.
Fans from other clubs are actually starting to commend Newcastle on their performances, which they describe as some of the most entertaining to watch with our new formation and style of attacking play. But in complete contrast to only last season, rival fans also accept losing to us now, almost as though they see us as a team that deserves to be at the heights of the table, challenging for the Champions League.
For the fans, the effort and commitment from the players is the best thing to see. There seems to be a real appreciation for the part we have played in this incredible season, obviously contributing heavily to the clubs revenue, but at the same time creating a special atmosphere for the players on a weekly basis. So for the first time in my life as a Geordie and proud Newcastle fan I actually feel like the players and manager want to repay us, in the form of good performances and results. It must be quite demoralising to play at the DW stadium with a ground that is only half full!
So with a realistic view to the future, can Newcastle fans expect this kind of euphoric season to become normality, or is it just a one-off and we’ll be back to mid table madness next year? I’m going to examine a few different aspects of our club to answer this:
To begin with, the current squad and any expected incoming or outgoing transfers is obviously the most important area to look at. I’d say we need seven more players in the summer to compete in Europe, in the league and maybe in one of the two domestic cups, without any of our core team leaving. With Steve Harper and Fraser Forster looking set to leave, I’d say we need to buy one more keeper, Krul and Elliot just isn’t enough, look what happened to Liverpool in the space of two games!
Our defensive options include Davide Santon (RB/LB), Fabricio Coloccini (CB), Mike Williamson (CB), Steven Taylor (RB/CB) and Danny Simpson (RB) who I think will sign a new contract at the club, and then a younger, up and coming player in James Tavernier (RB). Versatile players include: James Perch, who can play as a defensive midfielder but also on either side of the full back position, and Ryan Taylor, who will put in a solid performance whether he’s at right back, left back or on either wing. Overall I think we would need two more centre backs and another quality left back just to be safe. Squad rotation is so important when a team is trying to compete at the top, and competition for places is a great motivator.
Moving into midfield, we obviously have Ryan Taylor and James Perch as mentioned earlier. Other midfielders include Yohan Cabaye (CM), Jonas Gutierrez(LW), Cheik Tiote (DM/CM), Danny Guthrie (CM), Hatem Ben Arfa (CM/AM), Gabriel Obertan (RW/AM) and Sylvain Marveaux (RW/LW). I think Guthrie will leave in the summer, but I’m really looking forward to see what Marveaux can do, he’ll be like a new signing.
Younger players include Mehdi Abeid, Dan Gosling, Shane Ferguson, Haris Vuckic and Sammy Ameobi. I personally think we should follow the example Arsenal have set in previous years, and just use the younger players in the domestic cups where they can gain much needed experience and hopefully take us on a nice run, but at the same time support the first team in the league and Europe if needs be. In conclusion I think we need one more midfielder to be safe; a young player who’s versatile enough to play in the middle or on the wing, and who can be mentored by Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote to take over from one of them in case one of them leaves.
And finally onto the forwards. We have a nice range of strikers in Papiss Cisse, Shola Ameobi, Leon Best, Peter Lovenkrands and Demba Ba. I think the similar playing style of Shola Ameobi and Leon Best compliments that of Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba quite well, and I do think Ba will sign a new contract. However, realistically we need two more strikers to compete, one to take the pressure off Cisse/Ba to score all the time and another to come in who can replace Ba or Cisse when they leave for any African Cup of Nations commitments.
All of this obviously depends on injuries too! I really think that this would provide us with enough squad depth to compete, and also create a competitive atmosphere for first team places and even on the subs bench. With Harper, Forster, Lovenkrands, Guthrie, Smith, Xisco and Ranger either out of contract or likely to leave we should be able to slash quite a bit off the wage bill so we can use the money more wisely! And although we will receive extra money for competing in Europe, whether it is the Champions League or Europe League, the sale of Andy Carroll for £35m really was a one off, and gave us so much opportunity to invest in many different areas of the squad.
The summer is going to be very important for Newcastle United, especially as our season looks to start earlier than we’ve been used to in the last few years. However, I have full confidence that the owners and manager can excel in the transfer market once again!
It’s not just a talented and deep squad that will lead to sustainable success from now on. So the next few articles will be contain opinion and analysis about the financial model and strategy of NUFC, the youth and scouting system, review of Alan Pardew’s management and a realistic view of what we can achieve in Europe.
Howay the lads!!!