With such a long break between games for NUFC, it’s natural that the topic of Rafa Benitez’ long term future at the club has resurfaced within media outlets. Rafa himself alluded himself to not being entirely happy this season and with his pedigree who can blame him; his loyalty to Newcastle is commendable but he will need some key things addressed this summer to stay with us.
1 – Crunch talks with Ashley – what are his plans?
They need to thrash out what’s going on. Rafa needs to know where he stands and find out if Ashley is selling the club and if not, will he actually be backed. Then Benitez will want a clear transfer kitty defined and if Ashley is ready to learn from his mistakes. Rafa won’t accept second rate facilities and resources again and I fear a sale is the only way we can keep the former Real Madrid boss on Tyneside this summer. A new contact will be on the agenda but he’ll take some convincing to commit to an owner he doesn’t trust.
2 – Keep Lascelles at the club
Chelsea interest sounds very real but he’s our rock, our captain, our best defender & the glue that holds us together. Talks with Ashley and Rafa will surely also include questions like ‘what happens if Chelsea put in a big bid’. I think his influence on and off the pitch can’t be underestimated this season, where we have lacked quality but certainly not focus.
We need to do our utmost to keep him and all our best players to give Rafa a platform to build on. We’re desperately short on quality, so it would be pretty bleak if we sold one of the few stars in this current squad.
3 – Re-vamp the U-23’a and youth teams
Several have been released recently, suggesting Rafa is ready for an overhaul. It appears like we’re being ruthless in that department now (about time) & another big recruitment drive is needed. The under belly of the first team needs improving as so few youngsters ever come through or make any impact.
The Beardsley case still hangs over us too; the youth set up has floundered during the Ashley tenure and needs to be a priority, along with improving facilities.
4 – Sign a proven striker
Nothing new and something fans have been rightly demanding for some time now. Slimani is just a loan and seems highly unlikely to arrive permanent unless he sets the works the world on fire in the few games he’ll be fit for. It’s vital we get a goal scorer. It’s almost April & our top scorer has 5 goals; breaking our club record on a new striker would give everyone a lift & give Benitez some faith that Ashley may be willing to compromise with his backing. This will be the real acid test of Ashley’s intentions as we were given the PR spin that we hadn’t been in the Premier League for a season so couldn’t spend the TV revenues last summer. That simply won’t wash this time around.
5 – Secure impressive loan signings & sell deadwood
Dubravka looks all but done but Kenedy is another who’d be great to either sign permanently or secure on another loan deal. Both have improved us significantly; we look so much more solid and threatening on the counter with the pair in the side.
Ashley’s always keen to balance the books & Benitez needs space in his squad, so selling Gamez, Colback, Saivet, Haidara, one keeper (Darlow or Elliot?) & maybe Mitrovic and Mbemba seems likely and much needed to move on, recoup some cash and build the squad.
Can you see all the pieces falling into place this summer, or is more uncertainty on the horizon?