A typically tumultuous week on Tyneside yet, ironically, both the promotion-clinching and controversial events at St. James’ Park this week – already the football world and authorities are running scared of The Mighty Magpies – have doubly strengthened the hand of Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez in terms of club power.
Just 72 hours in the life of Newcastle saw the Geordie club promoted back to The Premier League with a robust 4-1 win over Preston North End on Monday night before celebrations were cut short with HMRC raids at the famous stadium yesterday morning.
It quickly emerged that the matter would not affect Newcastle’s promotion and football affairs next season so there was instant relief among the 50,000 who pack St. James’ Park every week and hundreds of thousands of United supporters around the world.
Moreover, while an official Newcastle United club statement said,
‘a member of staff (Managing Director Lee Charnley) has this morning been assisting HMRC with their inquiries’
and while the law of the land is innocent before being proven guilty and no charges were brought by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, it is yet another St. James’ Park scandal.
Football Focus – Newcastle’s Real Statement Will Be In The Premier League
Rafa Benitez made it clear he wouldn’t speak about ‘something that happened four or five years ago,” before he was at the club & fielded questions in his press conference today on the possibilty of Newcastle still winning The Championship with wins against Cardiff and Barnsley should Brighton fail to muster enough points against Bristol & Aston Villa.
Heavily-backed in the transfer market last summer – £10M for Dwight Gayle – currently on 22 goals – Matt Ritchie for £12M – 16 goals – £5M on Ciaran Clark, a steadying revelation at the back, and the less successful purchases of Grant Hanley, Mo Diame, Matt Selz and Jesus Gamez, Rafa Benitez was blocked from signing players in January.
Whether this was because Newcastle were top of The Championship sitting on a comfortable cushion of promotion points to make expenditure a luxury or the machinations of Mike Ashley, who was spotted at the Brentford and Birmingham away matches alongside traditional transfer team Graham Carr and Lee Charnley, is unknown.
Yet in Benitez’s first press conference post-HMRCharnleyGate, he revealed he has spoken to Ashley and the noises are of positive nature regarding next season:
“I was talking with Mike Ashley (today). We have had this conversation about what is going on, what we will do next and how we will prepare for next season and everything.
“At the moment if you are asking if he has congratulated me, yes and we will discuss the future of the club, the future of myself, the and everything. We will do it in the professional way that I like to do things…
“We have been fighting hard to go back to the Premier League and we will do our best to be sure we have a competitive team and that we can challenge for whatever.”
Armed with a war chest of between the £70M Spanish publication AS Sports quoted Rafa as telling them he had at his disposal at St. James’ on Monday,
to £150M in order to truly ready the squad for a Premier League assault on the top half depending on how angry Mike Ashley is with recent goings on at the club and anti-NUFC referees, Benitez will have his sights on some very top players.
Back in the top flight with bumper Premier League TV and prize money at the club’s disposal and a renewed determination to hold onto it, Ashley may well be preparing to not just match the £100M he gave Steve McClaren over two transfer windows in the ill-fated 2015-6 campaign but entrust Rafa with a lot more in an inflated market.
Newcastle are being linked with players in all different positions that need strengthening for The Premier League from long-term Newcastle target Bas Dost, defenders Carl Jenkinson and John Terry, Rafa’s Captain when Chelsea won The Europa League in 2013 as well as wildcard Ricardo Quaresma, who so impressed at The Euros to rival Ronaldo for Player of the Tournament and is an entertainer whom Geordies would love.
Other players linked are Arsenal pair Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, Stoke City Captain Ryan Shawcross, Tom Cairney the scorer of the Fulham wonder goal at St. James’ Park in their impressive win last month & Burnley hit-man Andre Gray.
As important as arrivals will be the men Benitez chooses to retain for the top flight and those players he thanks for their contribution and moves on.
Safe as houses for being part of the club back in the big time are the afore-mentioned Benitez signings Gayle, Ritchie and Clark plus fellow outstanding performers over the season JonJo Shelvey, Jamaal Lascelles, Karl Darlow, Jack Colback and Paul Dummett.
Monday night’s two-goal hero Ayoze Perez has ended the season especially well and Isaac Hayden will be certain of staying while Hanley and Diame have impressed enough when in the side while returning Dutchmen Tim Krul and Siem De Jong could feature in the 2017/8 campaign, the 125th season of Newcastle United.
Its so important the club keep Geordies in the dressing room and around the club in this historic year so keeping Dummett and Colback plus the physically superior Sammy Ameobi – a player who has held his own and scored goals in The Premier League – rather than forking out for the diminutive Cristian Atsu for £7M would achieve that.
With Matt Ritchie suspended for the remaining two games of the season and fined £5000 for dissent towards the 4th official after Newcastle’s let slip an equalizer to Leeds deep into injury time on Good Friday, it opens up an opportunity for a winger like Ameobi to show what he can do and stake a claim for a Newcastle future.
With goals away to Spurs and Hull in The Premier League under his belt, facing the club he was on loan to last season, Cardiff, then Barnsley at home would give him a proper chance & the minutes and confidence to find his feet in a black and white shirt again.
Similarly, newly fit Rolando Aarons will be looking for some end of season gametime after another frustrating season of injury while the omission through injury or the need to rest of Captain Lascelles, Grant Hanley and Vurnon Anita for the trip to Cardiff means the return of DeAndre Yedlin and Chancel Mbemba.
Aleksandr Mitrovic is still playing for his future at Newcastle though the 22 year-old fans’ favourite has stressed he wants to stay at the ‘special’ club and with goals against big Premier League teams plus Champions League strikes for Anderlecht and a great international record may be given the chance to develop while the time of Mbemba, Gouffran, Anita, Jesus Gamez and Daryl Murphy at Newcastle could be up.
The return of Premier League football is whetting the appetite of every Newcastle fan and the mind boggles what will happen in the coming months and exactly who Rafa Benitez will bring in to wear the black and white shirt on The Magpies return to the big time.
One thing is for sure its Newcastle against the world and after being handed the hardest ever Premier League start last time around facing 6 of the previous season’s Top 8 sides in the first 8 games, getting signings in early and being primed for August 12th is crucial.
Expect the unexpected with Newcastle United side Going Up…Howay the Lads. Don’t Stop Believin’…