I know what you are thinking, it must be very hard to pick out the positives from last season. We had a manager in Steve McLaren who talked the talk but couldn’t walk the walk, half the team only playing for the name on the back of the shirt rather than the one on the front and one of the worst seasons (if not the worst) I have ever seen from a Newcastle Squad.
Now the dust has settled, me, like everyone else, is ready for the season ahead and looking forward to getting behind the team in their push for automatic promotion to the Premiership. On reflection of last season, I think there are a number of things which need to remain in order for us to achieve this:
Lascelles’ Passion – After a shaky start to his Newcastle career we really saw Lascelles start to step up and shine towards the back end of last season. After our 3-1 loss to Southampton away on 9th April Lascelles gave a no-holds-barred interview showing nothing but passion, which asked more from himself and all of the Newcastle players. From this moment on he had started to win our hearts and his rise in popularity has risen ever since – to the point where some believe he should be captain this season. Whether Rafa decides to make him captain or not, if he shows the same amount of passion this season it will do nothing but wonders.
Lascelles and Mbemba’s Partnership – Another positive towards the back end of last season was the ever growing partnership between these 2. This will be the first season since our last Championship campaign that our defensive partnership back then, Coloccini and S Taylor, will not be in our squad. With their riddance it is also great to see Rafa is finally starting to build on our defence (which has been needed for some time) with the introduction of a very experienced Jesus Gamez from Atletico Madrid. I am hoping there are more to follow, but whoever comes through the door, I believe we should open the season with these 2 still solid in the middle of the defence. Being only 22 and 21, if they can carry this on, it could pay huge dividends to Newcastle United for a long time to come!
Adam Armstrong – Although he was playing out on loan at Coventry last season, the 19 year old Geordie striker managed to bag 20 goals in 40 games! The local lad is probably going to be one of Rafa’s hardest decisions in regards to where he should be playing this season. He gained a great deal of experience and confidence down in League 1 with Coventry but the question is do you do the same again or take the risk and have him along side our strike force of Mitrovic, Gayle & Perez? Either way I am excited to see what he can bring to the table this time around.
Depth in Goal – Some might say that having to resort to our third choice goalkeeper for a second season in a row was a nightmare of situation last season – but I beg to differ! With Tim Krul out injured up stepped Rob Elliot who put in so many top class performances before his injury. Next up was Karl Darlow, a Keeper who only had Championship experience at this point, but again out he shone with some fantastic saves and performances! This made our first purchase of Matz Sels an interesting one for me, but with Elliot our injured until November and rumours flying left, right and centre of Tim Krul’s departure it does make sense. Even if the rumours become true I feel very confident in the Goal Keeping position with Elliot, Darlow, Sels and Woodman on our books.
The Rafalution – Rafa Benitez – simply the signing of the summer. We have already seen the huge impact he has had in bringing in top quality players to the club. Since his take over he has made a huge impact and I am so excited to see what he can carry on doing for us. Hats off to the board aswell for managing to keep him even through our relegation – although by the sounds of it the Toon Army was the real winning factor.