Newcastle completed the task of an immediate return to the Premier League on Monday evening with a 4-1 over Preston North End. Promotion is a remarkable achievement and one we can all be thankful to Rafa and the players for. Exciting times hopefully lie ahead and thoughts already turn to next season. Just how well we can do in the top flight this time round?
What have other newly promoted teams accomplished?
Over the past 5/6 years, we have seen the likes of West Ham, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Leicester all come up and do well. We have also witnessed some yo-yo teams like Hull City, Burnley and QPR, alongside one season wonders like Reading.
Watford came up recently and finished 13th in their first season and Burnley came up this year and look like they are safe too. There is no reason why Newcastle should not be matching or bettering teams like this, or the now established Premier league sides mentioned above.
What level of player can we attract?
In modern day football and the money now involved, investment in new players is central to any success. Most neutrals will agree that Newcastle United, even newly promoted, can attract better players than quite a few lower Premier League teams, such as Bournemouth and Burnley for example. We will hopefully be operating in slightly different field to the usual brief of a newly promoted side. Our stadium, tradition and fan base has always meant we have been able to pull off some ambitious transfer moves, like Shearer, Owen or Kluivert. Even persuading Ritchie and Diame to drop a level last year was testament to this.
Add to this the lure of working under Rafa and a sizable budget and you would think we are well positioned around the top 10, targeting the same type of players as the likes of West Ham or Southampton. If we have a good season, there is no reason why we can’t then be fighting with the likes of Everton again in the years ahead.
There are a lot of good England internationals that are potentially available this summer. Rafa will certainly be aware that the likes of Sturridge, Shaw, Wilshere, Defoe, Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Shawcross may be available. If we could land some of those it would be a real sign of intent.
Conversely, last time we went up we secured the signatures of Ben Arfa and Tiote, who were highly thought of the continent. A mixture of recruitment home and abroad may be on the cards this time and I certainly think Newcastle will be able to surprise a few. If Rafa is backed, some exciting players will arrive.
The appointment of Rafa has meant that we finally have a manager who Ashley has allowed to prioritise cups alongside league exploits. This was proven with our run to the League Cup Quarter finals this year, despite being a Championship side. I think Rafa targeted the league cup as a more realistic option with the top teams not going full strength for it. This accounted for us then resting players in our dismal defeat at Oxford in the FA Cup – it was not as a realistic trophy chance (look who was in the FA cup semis).
With a better squad next year, expect more of the same and a high importance finally placed on a cup run. Perhaps we can even get back to Wembley and not just for Spurs away in the league…
So where can we finish?
The benefit of having an ambitious and world renowned manager means that if we back him and he stays, we have every chance of achieving things. I think Rafa will aim for top 10 next year, even if he doesn’t publically admit it.
We need to keep Rafa as he is dragging the club and Mike Ashley with him to match his ambitions. I can’t see him staying to continually fight relegation every year – why would he when he can command job offers from home and abroad?
As always, there are lots of variables and ifs and buts. Rafa staying and us spending money are the key to all this but there is no reason why we can’t, if all goes well, (it usually doesn’t with Newcastle, look at the tax arrests today) squeeze into the top 10 and have a real go at the cups. Here’s hoping anyway.