Expectation versus reality – how far can Newcastle go next season?

Bouncing straight back up to the Premier League was the ultimate goal for Newcastle United this season, but while Rafa Benitez and the players managed to gain promotion as champions, the focus has to eventually turn to how the team can make their mark in the top flight. They deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labour after a challenging campaign in one of the hardest second-tier divisions in the world of football, but there are likely to be key decisions made this summer which will not only provide fans with an insight in the level of ambition shown by Benitez and Mike Ashley, but also how the club will look to make amends for what was a forgettable and painful 2015/2016 campaign in the top flight.

A club of Newcastle’s calibre and stature should be aiming to become an established Premier League club again, but given that other clubs have spent huge sums of money on top quality players, there has to be an acceptance that Newcastle will, in some respects, have to play catch-up. That is not to say that Benitez and Ashley should set the bar too low and simply settle for finishing seventeenth; there is too much quality in the present squad to consider a position just outside the relegation zone as a success, even without the prospect of new players arriving at the club this summer. Bookmaker Ratings may be amongst those who believe that Newcastle have more than enough to avoid going straight back down into the Championship, but while fans have never been short of ambition or passion for the team, there has to be an element of realism that comes into play when Benitez and Ashley set their targets for next season.

A strong summer in the transfer market has to be the number one priority for Newcastle, and with Ashley making strong statements that he will back Benitez to the hilt with every penny he has, we have to feel confident that the days of expensive failures are over. This belief is enhanced by the fact that last summer’s signings played a big part in leading the club back into the Premier League, and although Newcastle spent big money on the likes of Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gayle and Grant Hanley, they were all instrumental in getting the team out of the Championship at the first time of asking. We have become accustomed to the club attracting big name players through the doors at St. James’ Park, but it remains to be seen if Benitez believes it is best to bring in experienced Premier League stars or looks further afield for people who can make a big difference on the pitch. Irrespective of which reported transfer budget is accurate, whether it is £70 million, £100 million or more, Newcastle still have to conduct shrewd business to not only get good value for money, but also ensure that the club is able to grow and assert itself in the Premier League.

Every team that goes up from the Championship naturally use the 40-point mark as an initial target, as statistics prove that it secures top flight survival. Newcastle would certainly settle for anything above the bottom three, but there is an argument that Benitez and the players should set their sights a lot higher. Fans may want to check the Melbet review on Bookmaker Ratings before backing Newcastle to finish in the top half of the table, but while some may consider it wildly ambitious, others point to the size of the club and where it should be finishing in the Premier League. Benitez has proven himself to be a highly ambitious manager, but you wonder if even he has to take a step back and wonder if a mid-table finish would be considered a good season.

We know that Newcastle are likely to take us on another rollercoaster of emotions in the Premier League, and whatever happens on the pitch, we hope that, at the very least, we remain a top flight club.