It’s been an incredible eight months on Tyneside, seeing us go from Mike Ashley, Steve Bruce and impending relegation to ambitious new owners, Eddie Howe and only narrowly missing out on a top 10 finish.
2022 has been a year to remember so far, and it looks set to go from strength to strength as we approach what promises to be a huge summer off the field at St James’ Park.
Here, we look at some of the issues that need to be addressed and key moves our new owners – alongside new sporting director Dan Ashworth – could and should make over the coming months.
1. Add quality in attack
If Callum Wilson stayed fit, I’m confident he’d score between 15 and 20 goals in a ever-improving Newcastle United side that will be looking to break into the top 10 and beyond this coming season.
However, in his two full seasons on Tyneside, he’s only played 44 Premier League games out of a possible 76. He’s reliable in front of goal when fit and an absolute handful too, but his battles with injuries mean we must sign at least one striker this summer.
Dwight Gayle needs to go and Chris Wood is likely to take up the sort of role Daryl Murphy took in the Championship from this point onwards, so signing a senior striker alongside the young and versatile Hugo Ekitike could be a vital move to add guaranteed goals to an attack that tends to look a little blunt without our current number nine.
A quality right winger capable of delivering big numbers could also transform our forward line and take us to the next level, with links to Bayer Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby and Leeds’ Raphinha pointing to exactly what we need in that area of the pitch.
2. Shift deadwood and sell smart
There are too many players currently on our books who are either not good enough, way down the pecking order or long-serving pros who need to move on for everyone’s sake.
The likes of Ciaran Clark, Matt Ritchie, Jeff Hendrick and Dwight Gayle need to go, whilst it may be the right time for Isaac Hayden, Federico Fernandez and Karl Darlow to depart after all three have found game time hard to come by at stages of their career where they’ll want to be playing.
Not only would this raise funds – albeit not much – it would create space for new signings, bring the wage bill down and avoid awkward decisions for Eddie Howe when he comes to select his 25-man squad ahead of the new 2022/23 season.
We’ve rarely sold at the right time in recent years, so selling smartly will also be key, with the likes of Jamaal Lascelles and Freddie Woodman striking me as players who could be worth moving on this summer. Miguel Almiron is another, with some of the best soccer betting sites in the USA backing him to return to the MLS if there’s no takers in Italy, Spain or England.
On the flip side, selling Allan Saint-Maximin isn’t something I’m keen on unless someone arrives with silly money. This particular exit rumour isn’t one I’m enjoying as I feel he needs a full season under Howe and still has so much to offer, so hopefully some clarity can be offered on his future ASAP.
3. Secure sponsorship deals
It’s easily forgotten given how much this area of the club was neglected by Mike Ashley, but securing lucrative sponsorship deals will be key to our spending – both this summer and in future transfer windows to come.
Who knows who they’ll strike deals with – Saudi Golf have been mentioned after CEO Majed Al Sorour joined the board last month – however this could take our finances to the next level, enabling us to show ambition in the transfer market while staying within FFP regulations.
5. Sign a top centre-back
Dan Burn has been outstanding and Fabian Schar has been superb since Howe came in, but it’s been clear for several months now that we’re looking to bring in a quality centre-back.
Diego Carlos has gone to Aston Villa and it remains to be seen who’ll win the race for Sven Botman, who appears to be our top target in this department.
Whether we end up with the latter or have to look elsewhere, this is an area where fresh blood, athleticism and the ability to carry the ball out of the back would be much welcomed.
Not only would an injection of class help us play the Eddie Howe way, we may need more than one new centre-back if the likes of Fernandez, Clark and Lascelles move on.
6. Support Elliot Anderson’s development
It was always clear from U23 games I attended that Elliot Anderson had something special, but his loan spell at Bristol Rovers made so many sit up and take note of the 19-year-olds talent!
He is a special player who must be managed carefully over the coming months. Howe will almost certainly hand him a chance to impress over pre-season, so it’ll be very interesting to see what comes next.
If he’s loaned out again, we must find the right club at the right level, especially when too many of our youngsters have endured damaging and poorly thought out moves away in recent years.
If he stays, a path to regular game time must be clear, as it could harm him, not help him, to spend most of the season sat on the bench, albeit it at Premier League level.
7. Discover more Bruno’s
Last but certainly not least, it would be great to see the club use Bruno Guimaraes’ arrival as a blue print for future business.
By that I mean targeting young gems who have bundles of quality and bags of character who buy into this exciting new project at St James’ Park.
The Brazilian wants to become a ‘legend’ on Tyneside. Wouldn’t it be great if we could bring in others who arrive with his passion, spark and determination to take the Premier League by storm in a black and white shirt!