Sky Sports’ Sunday Supplement panel have discussed just what’s going wrong at Newcastle United, and there’s one assessment I’m struggling to accept.
According to the Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman, the key issue is that our players are just ‘not good enough for the Premier League’, with him claiming that Rafa Benitez was the reason a ‘a Championship group of footballers’ survived for two seasons.
I’m not having this for a second. We may be short on numbers or quality in areas, but is he honestly saying that Dubravka, Schar, Lejeune, Lascelles, Longstaff, Shelvey, Hayden, Almiron, Joelinton and Saint-Maximin are Championship players? I don’t think so – and I’d even go as far as saying most of these are capable of playing in top 10 sides and beyond.
Here’s what Ladyman said on Sky Sports when assessing what’s wrong with Newcastle United:
“The issue with Newcastle is very simple – Benitez, in his own way, managed to essentially keep a Championship group of footballers in the Premier League for two seasons, which was a terrific achievement. He did it his own way, he’s a very clever coach and very clever person and he got the job done.
“Whoever came in after him was going to find a dressing room short on quality, despite the fact they spent money on [Miguel] Almiron last season and spent big on a centre-forward [Joelinton] over the summer.
“Generally speaking, it’s a very workaday group of players and whoever came in after Rafa was going to have to prove themselves as astute as him, not in the same way, but to find a way of getting 20 per cent more out of players than they’ve got to give. Steve Bruce is the one to do that and it’s going to be a very long season for him indeed.
“As a group of people and a group of individuals, I don’t think it’s the worst dressing room in the world. I actually think they’ve got some good lads in there, who over the last couple of seasons, were prepared to do what was necessary to stay up. I don’t think it’s mentality or personality that’s the issue, I just don’t think they’re good enough.”
We may have sold Perez and chose not to resign Rondon, but one thing I never felt Steve Bruce could say if he failed at Newcastle is ‘I didn’t have the players’.
This is by far and away the best side Steve Bruce has had and, for me, you could even say it’s a better squad than the one Rafa Benitez had at the start of last season.
We have our limitations – I feel we lack quality and experience at full-back, quality cover in midfield and proven goal scorers – but our squad on paper is better than at least 4 or 5 Premier League rivals, never mind ‘Championship’ standard.
The players must work harder than they did against Norwich and have a responsibility to perform, but if we fail to stay up this season it won’t be due to a lack of quality in the team, it will be due to Mike Ashley’s decision to replace Rafa Benitez with Steve Bruce.