Although all eyes may be on the ongoing Saudi takeover saga and arbitration hearing that hangs over it, there’s several key decisions that must be made at Newcastle United this summer – whether new owners arrive or not.
Here we run through 10 issues that must be dealt with between now and the beginning of the 2021/22 season:
1 – One goalkeeper has to go
I don’t see a world where Woodman or Darlow settle for sitting on the bench behind Martin Dubravka next season. Another loan move seems the most likely move for Woodman, but I feel like Darlow will look for pastures new after proving himself at Premier League level over the first half of 2020/21 – yet still finding himself second best when Dubravka returned. It would also be an ideal time to sell Darlow while his stock is high, however any exit may leave us needing to sign a new No. 2?
2 – Matt Ritchie to get his move?
The wing-back has been a revelation since January, overcoming a row with Bruce by forcing his way back into his plans and playing a key role in our late surge up the table. That said, fresh reports claim he’s ‘anxious’ to leave and secure a return down South. Time to thank him for his services and sanction a move back to Bournemouth?
3 – Will Bruce pursue bargain moves for ex-NUFC trio?
Our budget isn’t expected to be big, making free agents and cut-price deals more desirable than ever. With Jetro Willems and Andros Townsend both available on Bosmans, will we step up our long standing interest? Adam Armstrong is another. He’s said to be keen to return home, is in red hot form and we’ll never get a better chance to re-sign him given our 40% sell-on clause could allow us to grab him at almost half price.
4 – End of the road for Andy Carroll
I was surprised he was handed a one-year extension last summer, but the fact he might sign on for another season is worrying to say the least. He tries and clearly loves the club, but it’s even clearer that he’s not up to it at Premier League level anymore and a player we can’t count on. After all, he couldn’t be relied on to stay fit if Wilson got injured – never mind score the goals required in his absence! One goal in two seasons and a poor fitness record should mean he gets released and replaced with a fresher and far more capable forward.
5 – Willock deal to define our summer?
Bring him back and we’ll have a spring in our step that helps keep Saint-Maximin happy via a much needed show of ambition, but failure to do so and we’ll immediately be weakened ahead of the new season – leaving some of our key players questioning just what direction we’re going in as a club. Who knows, maybe Arsenal will refuse to sell, but I feel like there’s a deal to be done here if we make a bid above the £20m mark. Funds may be tight, however we must find a way to make this happen or all the momentum built over the second half of 2020/21 will immediately be lost.
6 – Centre-back department set for refresh?
We almost secured a loan deal for Rob Holding last summer, but we haven’t actually signed a centre-back since Bruce’s arrival two years ago. Schar, Fernandez and Lejeune’s futures are up in the air and a few reports have said we’ll listen to offers for Ciaran Clark, so it seems an ageing area of our squad could be reshuffled this summer. Who will be sold, who will sign new deals and who will arrive? Kristoffer Ajer has been heavily linked, but will Bruce finally get his man?
7 – The curious case of Dwight Gayle
It’s been said for a while now that a new three-year deal was ‘imminent’, yet here we are a few months on still waiting for an announcement. Personally, I’d like to think we are only giving him this so we can get a few for him this summer – not lose him for nothing when plenty Championship clubs would pay decent money! Like Carroll, I hope he’s sold and we reinvest any money received in more reliable options able to step in when Wilson’s out.
8 – Find loan moves for wasted U23 duo
Matty Longstaff and Elliot Anderson are currently caught in between wasting away in our U23s and failing to feature at first-team level. Bruce promised both more minutes than they’ve received so far in 2021 and was wrong to reject January loan bids for both. They need regular football at senior level and I’m sure Championship loan offers will come their way, with Luton expected to come back in for Anderson and Matty linked with Derby. As the likes of gameseek.co.uk highlight, both should be strutting their stuff on a weekly basis in the second tier across 2021/22 – not sat in the stands or rotting in our reserves.
9 – Time to cash in on La Liga loanees…if we can!
Florian Lejeune and Yoshinori Muto will return from spells in Spain once pre-season training resumes. The former has done well at Alaves and some want to see Bruce give him a second chance, however it seems far more likely we cash in – especially when the Frenchman’s deal expires next summer. As for Muto, he’s a £50,000 per-week problem we may be stuck with and did nothing to put himself in the shop window at Eibar. Atsu and Saivet will be released, so let’s hope he’s another who leaves to help free up some room for manoeuvre as far as our wage bill is concerned.
10 – Keep Allan Saint-Maximin; and keep him happy
With many expecting Bruce’s budget to be small, we must resist any urge to cash in on our electric Frenchman who we’ve all fallen in love with. Not only that, he’s made it clear that we must show ambition in the transfer market and aim for more than just survival this season, or he’ll be off. A takeover may be the only way we keep him in the long run, but we can’t entertain a summer sale.