I’m a firm believer that when a new manager comes in, every player starts with a clean slate and gets a fresh start, yes even Joelinton.
Over the last few seasons we’ve clearly seen that a couple of players, including regular internationals, struggle to stake a claim on a spot in the starting XI. It’s baffling this is the case when it’s fair to say, based on the level of performances from the team, every spot is fair game.
The first name that comes to mind for me is Fabian Schar. Granted, at times his defensive game isn’t the most consistent but let’s be fair, no one in the back line has covered themselves in glory lately. What Fabian does bring is an ability to play the ball out from the back. Launching the ball with more hope than skill just doesn’t cut it anymore. Wilson, though good in the air, doesn’t provide the best hold up play and often finds himself with no one to lay it off to. It almost always ends in a turnover of play, handing over the few chances to hold on to the ball Newcastle get, with nothing more than a whimper.
Next we need to address the constant left back issue. Matt Richie, the corner flag smasher extrodernair, should never play left back again. Richie still has something to offer this team, but it isn’t in Newcastle’s backline. The left back problem is something that has plagued Newcastle since Pardew, but we have a young promising player in Jamal Lewis who seems to be the only casualty of Newcastle’s awful defensive record. Hopefully Howe can bring out the best in Jamal and get him back into the form that had Liverpool sniffing around. At just 23 he has time on his side.
Newcastle doesn’t boast the strongest set of centre midfielders, it’s no wonder they’re looking at the likes of Ramsey at Juventus. But what we do have is Joe Willock. The end of last season and that incredible form that saw him net 7 goals in 7 games, matching the record held by Shearer. However, this season Joe has spent more time on the bench than his ability warrants. We do need to consider he didn’t get a proper pre-season with the team and did have a slight knock a while back. But at this point we are a third way through the campaign, pre season isn’t an excuse at this point. Joe needs to play, his link up play with Saint Maximin saved us last year, without his goals, we would be planning away days at Peterborough and Derby. No one else in the middle makes those runs into the box for the wide men to find, and we sure need some of that right now.
Although he got more time on the pitch under Jones, Ryan Fraser has no doubt been under used during his time at Newcastle. He’s struggled for fitness, but lets face it, who hasn’t under Bruce. Howe managed to get Fraser singing at Bournemouth, and while his time at the Cherries was sour at the end, Howe has made it clear there’s no bad blood between them. Fraser combined so well with Wilson during their time together that their 11 combined goals beat Fowler/Collymore and Bergkamp/Anelka (10), second only to Shearer and Sutton for a record 13 combined goals in a season. Fraser has recently pulled out of the Scotland squad, and while he wasn’t pictured in the St James’ training session it’s believed he’s chosen to spend the break proving himself to Howe.
Lastly, we need to talk about Dwight Gayle. Now I’m not suggesting he gets the nod ahead of Wilson, it’s clear as day that Wilson is our best striker. But he needs rest and protection. We’ve seen what happens to this team when he gets injured and that needs to be avoided as much as possible. If Gayle is to step up, he needs to play. It’s no good bringing him on for a few minutes at the end of a game once every other month. More time at the end of a game, running at tired defenders gives us another option. Nothing kills a team’s chances more than complete predictability. Managers have endless footage to go over now; and the data made available means you can’t put out the same side, in the same formation, with the same tactics and expect them not to stop you.
Every single player deserves a chance to prove themselves.
When speaking to friends I’ve said I won’t judge anyone in this squad based on their game under Bruce, but it’s time to step up and be counted for.