Newcastle have their hands full with a survival battle on the pitch but it is hard to not also think about what awaits us in the summer. It will be one of the biggest in our recent history, with the future of our manager, players and owner up in the air.
What key questions need answered for the long term future of the club?
What division will we be playing in?
The win against Manchester united provided our season with a much needed shot in the arm but we are still only two points clear of the drop. It is likely to go right to the wire and this weekend’s trip to Bournemouth is another key game. A Chronicle poll showed that the win over Man Utd has shifted Newcastle fans opinions on us avoiding the drop, with most now thinking we will stay clear of trouble come May. This is a stark contrast the glum mood we all had a few weeks ago as we slid down the table.
I think we will stay up, even if it is not by a big margin. Other sides are in trouble too and it is likely we just need to collect another ten points to avoid a return to the Championship. If we can stay up, it would open up other questions on where the club would go next in the summer.
Will we finally have new ownership?
There has been enough written on this already and like most fans, I find it hard to know what to believe on this anymore. Latest rumours are that PCP may yet return with a new offer but even if they don’t and we stay up, we need to find a new owner.
Ashley has driven the club into the ground and to avoid more failure on the pitch we need more investment. With the new TV deal finalised and our fate of which division we are playing in sorted soon, the summer should see fresh developments on the takeover saga, whether it is PCP or someone else.
Will Rafa Benitez stay?
Since arriving at the club there have always been question marks on his future and there always will be. Having a manager of this calibre will mean other clubs will always be interested in taking him from Newcastle and it is up to the club to match his ambitions. He is settled here, has a rapport with the fans but that only goes so far. He took over when we were in dire need and got us back up.
It is time he got the same level of commitment from the boardroom and that is the key to his long term future at NUFC. I think it’s fair to say if Ashley doesn’t sell, then Rafa may well walk.
Will we keep key players?
We need new players, that is clear, but there are a few players that we need to keep as well.
Lascelles has grown again this season and has shown to be a real leader and focal point of the side. If he continues he may attract interest from elsewhere and being English, this always makes him more attractive to Premier League rivals.
Mikel Merino has been out of the side with the superb form of Diame but he is still young and clearly has potential. Linked with Bilbao in January, it would be good to ensure he remains here ready for the new season.
Rafa has already tied down Dummett with a new long term contract; not the most technical player but one who is a good character and the type that we need to keep. The form of loan signings Kenedy, Dubravka and Slimani needs to be monitored too.
Will we see long overdue investment into the club?
Regardless of the takeover, we MUST see investment this summer. We have scraped by this year with a pitiful net spend and Ashley may get away with it if we stay up. But that tactic won’t work next year and certainly won’t keep Benitez. He has to spend or sell, the situation is reaching a head and whilst the fans are supporting the team as usual, if Rafa leaves and we don’t spend it will be the final straw for most fans.
The frustration I have with all these questions is that they are all interlinked; if we are taken over it is likely Rafa will stay, we will retain key players and see much needed investment in new players. It very much feels like this summer will be a crossroads for the club, with us either entering an exciting new ear full of hope or, we are forced to remain in the rut Ashley has created.