So the summer transfer window is just 50 days away from closing as I type and Newcastle have already done some considerable business.
With the arrival of Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, Jesus Gamez, Isaac Hayden and Matz Sels, Rafa Benitez has wasted little time in revamping the squad.
Outgoings have also been swift with Papiss Cisse securing a big payday in China and our Captain returning to his native Argentina and first love San Lorenzo to play out his final footballing years. Gone too are long-serving Geordie defender Steven Taylor, Gabriel Obertan, Sylvain Marveaux and sadly the very gifted Andros Townsend – the latter’s move still puzzles me to be honest. Quite why you swap being coached by Benitez for Pardew is a mystery for me, I can only assume it’s just a case of returning to the Premier League and potential to get in future England squads.
We have also secured the services of youngsters Yasin Ben El-Mhanni and Stuart Findley and released Jamie Cobain.
With the possibility of Blackburn Rovers captain Grant Hanley joining us soon it looks like we are seriously flirting with optimism here. Not for a long time have i felt so optimistic about the squad. Yes it’s true, the glass half empty girl has optimism for the coming season!
So what has brought about this change in my psyche? Well for me it’s the type of player we have brought in. The fact that we are buying players who would appear to have good mental attitude as well as good skill levels is very pleasing. You don’t always need the big money signings to achieve big results, Leicester City showed us that much, as did Iceland in the Euro’s this year. So far we seem to be getting a very tidy group of individuals together who all seem genuinely thrilled to be joining us.
This is evident in the case of Matt Richie, Jesus Gamez and Isaac Hayden even dropping down a level to do so. Matz Sels also came to us from a very successful side in KAA GENT who won the 2014/15 season Juniper Pro League in Belgium.
Sels is apparently a workaholic, hell-bent on self-improvement and regularly does extra training sessions to target certain areas of his game. He is tee-total, not even indulging in fizzy drinks to keep his body in optimal shape.
The experience of Jesus Gamez goes without saying and will be invaluable to Mbemba and Lascelles who are developing a very good partnership, but they need an older experienced head to help guide them. In Lascelles we have a future captain too.
Matt Ritchie will undoubtedly be an asset to the team, great work ethic, lots of pace and good skills. Will he have the impact that Townsend had? Who knows, but he is a good player there is no doubt of that. What he does appear to have is good mental strength, leadership skills and could be our new Nolan.
Isaac Hayden could hopefully be a future star for us – a central defender equally at home in central midfield where I believe he may play for us this season.
His former coach Arsene Wenger has said he has great strength, intelligence and concentration.
The latter attribute being welcomed news since so many of our players seemed to lack concentration last season, especially in the last ten minutes of a game when you are hanging on.
Benitez seems to be having a positive effect all over the club with revamps to youth and reserve squad development also.
The training facilities are updated and the club are fostering ever-growing links to the local community in a way not seen for a long time, all influenced by Benitez.
It may well be that his time at Liverpool and the way they deal with the local community and huge worldwide fan base has had a bearing on his advice to the club and how to develop a better brand as it were. It’s no small achievement to get our owner to realise that cheap and nasty and strict transfer rules are not the way to go.
It is so important to get the mix of experience and skill and character right, this season more than ever as we simply must achieve promotion at the first attempt.
Failure to do it could see Rafa Benitez walk away and all the good work undone. Call me an optimist but I don’t see us failing, not with the way the squad is developing under Benitez- yes it will be tough and nervy at times, this is Newcastle after all, but I do believe in us, do you?