“They should be challenging for the Premier League,”
Daryl Murphy on Newcastle United.
“It’s a big club…All they want is their football, there’s 52,000 fans coming to home games in the Championship. It’s unheard of, really.
“They really support the team. We played away games, they were selling the games out. I can’t speak highly enough of them. They were great with me too.”
Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez have a tremendous opportunity to hit the ground running in the 2017/8 season and The Magpies must think and spend big to take advantage of it.
No European football entanglements which will hinder last season’s Top 7 – both Chelsea and Leicester City have won The Premier League in the last two seasons with just one main competition to focus on – means a level playing field with the teams that finished 8th to 17th and of course the two teams Newcastle finished above in The Championship.
A lot is made of the highly competitive nature of The Premier League and while that is true in some respects – organization, intensity and physicality certainly compared to Spain’s La Liga means no easy games. Yet in terms of real football quality, outside last season’s Top 4 teams there isn’t any great sides.
One of the traditional powers, Arsenal, is on the decline as evidenced by its fall from Champions League qualification grace after nearly 20 years in the lucrative competition, meaning its star players will be cherry-picked and want to leave like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Hector Bellerin to Barcelona.
Of the others, Champions League football returning to a Liverpool side that had midweek free to prepare means two tough games a week for the majority of the season and the question of whether they can juggle on both fronts Under Jurgen Klopp?
Ditto Manchester United as Jose struggled in The Premier League with Chelsea on two fronts before his sacking in December 2015. After acknowledging he had his worst season ever last season finishing sixth, will he thrive on two massive fronts?
And Antonio Conte at Chelsea, Pep Guardiola at Man City and Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs will not want to see a football master like Benitez in the opposition dugout especially at St. James’ Park which can become a fortress once more.
As successful a manager as The Premier League has seen, Rafa Benitez is not rejoining the top flight of English football to make up the numbers.
While Rafa is the ultimate realist in football, he is also the ultimate competitor and will be hungry to win that Premier League title that eluded him and his glittering, almost perfect, CV at Liverpool or he would not have charged himself with the task of awakening the ultimate sleeping giant Newcastle United.
After receiving assurances of spending power from Mike Ashley to make Newcastle competitive this summer, Benitez is immediately looking to bring in the big players who can take Newcastle to the next level.
Former Newcastle United owner and Chairman Freddie Shepherd spoke of the need for a marquis signing through the doors at St. James’ Park recently and its certain that Newcastle will have to break their £15M transfer record many times this season just to punch their weight in the modern market.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be the talisman Newcastle need to launch their Premier League assault.
The Borussia Dortmund striker is the top marksman in Europe this season with 31 goals and Newcastle were one of his very early admirers with supremo Mike Ashley joining Graham Carr at the Parc De Princes in 2013 to watch him play.
Back then, the electric-paced striker – a friend of Magpie Ayoze Perez – was available for a more modest £10-15M yet has proven he is worth his goal-scoring weight in gold – or the diamonds that sometimes encrust his tailor-made boots – and £50M for his services would be more than worth it and make a huge statement.
Newcastle have a better nucleus of players ready for the top flight than the majority of people give credit for yet must strengthen the squad massively to boost quality levels and cover the loss of key players which affected their form badly at times last season.
Playmaker JonJo Shelvey makes The Magpies tick and was sorely missed by Newcastle when he was banned over the hectic Christmas period so an alternative to his talents must be top of the list and could arrive in the shape of Fulham’s Tom Cairney:
When PFA Fans’ Championship Player of the Year Dwight Gayle was out the side lacked pace up front, and another pacy finisher is essential if he is ham-strung again.
Newcastle have made one signing already this summer after completing the permanent move of winger Cristian Atsu for £6.2M from Chelsea on a four-year deal yet another winger to cover his absences with Ghana especially on African Nations Cup duty in future years could open the door for England U21 Jack Grealish to move to St. James’:
Scorer of the late goal above against Brighton that sealed The Championship title on the final day of season, ‘The Birmingham Ronaldo’ as he is known among the Aston Villa faithful is a player with bucket-loads of talent who could fulfil his potential under Rafa Benitez and certainly give the Magpies boss more attacking options.
Defender-wise, Newcastle sorely missed Grealish’ former Villa team-mate Ciaran Clark, pictured above celebrating with Dwight Gayle, Grealish and Grant Hanley, in his injury absence in the title-run in and the acquisition of Hull’s Harry Maguire would mean Newcastle have a top defender to increase competition:
Clark himself has spoken of “exciting times” ahead at St. James’ Park and is looking forward to the future with great relish:
“There are exciting times ahead. Everyone is obviously looking forward to the next season, playing against some of the best players and best stadiums in the world.”
Football pundits and transfer targets could do with heeding his words as there is a new mood of ambition – shown by Paul Dummett renouncing Wales for a shot at England honours – at St. James’ Park.
Expected the Unexpected