The wheels are already in motion ahead of Newcastle United’s return to the Premier League, with the club making early plans that could stand the club in good stead moving forwards. A number of potential transfer targets have already emerged from the rumour mill, while the announcement that Rafa Benitez will remain as manager is unquestionably great news at a time when stability and growth is imperative to putting Newcastle United back on the map. Looking forward is the best way for the Championship title winners to prepare for what could be a tough return to the top flight, but while Betsafe may include NUFC amongst the favourites to go straight back down next season, it is important that the club prepare well and get it right this summer in order to be ready for Premier League football coming back to St. James’ Park.
Securing the services of Benitez – a man who stuck by the club during its darkest days last season as he was unable to undo the mess left behind by Steve McClaren – is almost certainly a big step in the right direction, with Mike Ashley doing the right thing and sticking by his manager after clear-the-air talks between the two. You can tell that the players respect Benitez and have bought into his philosophies, and while there were a few rocky moments this season, it is purely the result of playing in one of the most competitive and difficult leagues to get out of. Time will tell as to whether Benitez will receive the financial support he needs from Ashley to inject some much-needed quality into the squad, with reports suggesting that the manager may receive up to £100 million to spend on new players; if we can learn anything from our near neighbours who will both pass us on our way back up to the Premier League, it is difficult to compete when the quality is not there.
Newcastle United may have addressed one important issue ahead of what is likely to be a crucial summer, but Benitez, Ashley and Lee Charnley must come together to target players that not only have the hunger and desire to play for the club, but also make the team stronger. There is no question that the club will continue to attract big name players, but we must ensure the right players arrive on Tyneside; we have been stung in recent times by a number of expensive transfers who have failed to produce, and at a time when the quality in the Premier League is only likely to grow even higher, Newcastle United have to get it right. Doing so would improve the team’s odds of avoiding the drop with Betsafe, along with being able to compete with the likes of Manchester City, who signed an official partnership deal with the online gaming company in 2015, at the right end of the table. However, given that NUFC have failed to beat the Citizens on home soil since 2005 and won just one of the last twenty-one meetings in all competitions would suggest that fans may have to be more realistic with their expectations, even though a mid-table finish would not be out of the question.
Consolidating our Premier League status would be a realistic target, but there is encouraging signs that Benitez and Ashley have greater ambitions for the club in the first season back after promotion. The former may believe that he has something to prove with a big club like Newcastle United back in the big league after his disappointing spell at Real Madrid, and given how delighted he looked when his team lifted the Championship trophy aloft at St. James’ Park, you could sense that Benitez has fallen in love with the club.