That’s it, the domestic season has ended and we Magpie fans can breathe easy as top-flight status has been comfortably assured largely thanks to the tutelage of Rafael Benítez.
However, as the year is an even number, it can mean only one thing, a summer full of expectation as an International tournament is set to light up the coming month with the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup taking place in Russia (just in case you did not know and had been living under a rock for the past four years).
As the Russians prepare for vodka sales to go through the roof (literally), we take a look at the Magpies playing staff who will be boarding a plane to mix it with Vladimir Putin and co as well as a look at those who have just missed out and will have to console themselves with being in the know when it comes to getting the best 2018 World Cup betting tips before a ball has even been kicked.
Aleksandar Mitrović – Serbia
Despite spending 2018 on loan at Fulham in the Championship, trouble maker Mitrovic is a shoo-in to make the grade after playing a vital role for Serbia in the qualifying process.
The 23-year-old netted goals against Georgia, Wales, and Moldova during qualifying to finish the groups top scorer and with a whopping 12 goals in just 17 appearances since joining Fulham at the end of January, Serbia will be confident of going far with Mitro leading the line.
However, his temperament is always an issue hence the reason he was sent out on loan in the first place and is highlighted when he received a booking on his Serbia debut against Belgium in 2013 for stepping on Axel Witsel’s foot.
It does appear that a stint in West London has done Mitrovic the world of good and he is finally fulfilling that undoubtable talent he possesses just in time for the World Cup.
Mikel Merino – Spain
One for the future and more of an outside chance to make the trip to Russia but 21-year-old Merino is certainly on the radar of Spain’s hierarchy.
Part of the Spanish under-21 set-up, Merino is almost a certainty to make the grade to the senior squad and much like Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon, this World Cup may be a year too early.
Jonjo Shelvey – England
Midfielder Shelvey has every right to feel aggrieved after Gareth Southgate revealed the 26-year-old has missed out on a spot in the three lions squad for Russia.
With 32 appearances to his name and a couple of goals, the man hailing from Romford with six caps to his name was considered a luxury but also a liability in the dressing room the England manager could do without.
In an English midfield packed with talent, there is no doubting Shelvey could have done a job for England, however, unlike his equally troublesome team mate Aleksandar Mitrović, this time Shelvey’s disciplinary record has gotten the better of him.