With pre-season now underway and a victory already under NUFC’s belt, a few eyebrows were raised when some forgotten men got some minutes on the pitch against Hearts after returning from loan spells last year. So who may have a chance of forcing their way back into Rafa’s plans next season?
Siem De Jong
De Jong is perhaps the most likely to still claim a future at the club. The Dutchman arrived with a good pedigree after captaining Ajax to titles back in Holland and it was hoped he would be the number 10 we had lacked in recent years. However, despite an impressive initial pre-season, injury problems soon surfaced and his NUFC career is so far better symbolised by his time on the treatment table than on the pitch.
He was shipped out to PSV last year to regain some confidence and with injuries again halting his progress initially, he did manage a strong end to the season and scored 4 goals in the final few months of the season. Now 28, De Jong is firmly in the last chance saloon in English football but Rafa does see something in him; he was trusted with a starting role during our ill-fated run in when he took over and narrowly avoided keeping us up in the 15/16 season.
De Jong started the Hearts game and laid on a great assist for Gayle’s opener. Number 10 is also a problem position for United; Perez and Diame failed to claim this as their own last season. I am pretty sure Bentiez will want a number 10 brought in this summer but it may be that Siem still has a part to play. Diame and Perez may be used as centre midfield and centre forward squad depth respectively with De Jong providing the competition as a number 10. He clearly has talent and is worth having in the squad; as long as we don’t rely on him being fit. Any contribution from him next year would be a real bonus.
It seems to have went sour for Tim at Newcastle after being a fantastic servant to the club over the years. Krul was arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League three or four years ago but as the team struggled, so did his form. His development had stalled and perhaps mentally he was going a bit stale, having only really played for Newcastle. He certainly had options to leave for bigger clubs at his peak and clearly holds an affinity with the city of Newcastle.
An ACL injury has further pushed him back and meant he was loaned out to AZ Alkmaar last year, where by all accounts, he was less than impressive. Rafa wants a new goalkeeper this summer and with us already having Darlow, Elliott and Woodman, it looks like Tim is destined for the exit door. Also being left out the squad for pre-season appears to suggest a move could be sorted sooner rather than later.
One player who could come back into the fold is slightly more left of field. Saivet was sent on loan to St Etienne last year after failing to make any sort of impact at Newcastle after arriving in January 2016. He has not been given many chances to play to be fair but by all accounts doesn’t appear to be the powerful midfield anchor we had hoped for. That being said, Rafa brought him on during his quietly impressive cameo against Hearts, so he must see something in him or feel he wants to see more of him before totally removing him from his plans.
In terms of other players who had loan spells last season, similar moves will likely be arranged or they will be moved on permanently. Adam Armstrong has already moved to Bolton until the New Year to continue his development in the Championship and similar deals may be negotiated by the end of the window for Jamie Sterry and Ivan Toney, who would both benefit hugely from a year in the second tier.
That only really leaves Emmanuel Riviere who thankfully looks to have no future at the club; it now appears to be a pure damage limitation job to get off the wage bill, never mind re-coup any of the £6m fee we paid for him.
Which, if any, of the returning loan players would you like to be given a chance?