'All parties are IN' – Newcastle United takeover silence evaluated as transfers & pre-season slips are our Toon Trending Topics
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Expectations are low on Tyneside after a summer of turmoil which started with promises of Saudi riches and appears to be ending with extended sagas for free transfers.
Here our writers Liam Kennedy and Miles Starforth assess the window, the squad and touch on the takeover talk in our latest Toon Trending Topic Q&A.
Do pre-season results have an impact on the new season, if any?
LK: “Yes and no. It’s never good to get a hammering in pre-season, less positive when it is a team who fought relegation the division below. The signs are not good for Newcastle but I wouldn’t be jumping off a cliff just yet. The Magpies will improve their squad and hope to imminently. Will that be enough to push on from a relegation fight? I personally think this season will be an even bigger battle than last.”
MS: “Yes and no. Performances are arguably as important as results in pre-season, and the need to rotate players for fitness and mass substitutions can be factors behind defeats. Pre-season games aren’t all about results, though managers, obviously, want to go into the season proper on the back of a number of wins. The thing is, we just don’t know what kind of shape Newcastle are in this pre-season as all games have been played behind closed doors. All we can do is look at the results, and the 5-1 defeat to Middlesbrough, understandably, rang a few alarm bells.”
How will Steve Bruce feel about the make-up of his squad heading into the campaign?
LK: “No matter what he says he can’t be happy, can he? The signings made, although improvements on players previously in those positions are nowhere near enough. Newcastle have needed a striker, probably two, and a left-back for years, and that need only worsens as time goes on. Neither problem position has been solved. Bruce can’t be pleased heading into a campaign with Andy Carroll alone leading the line.”
MS: “I think it’s fair to say there’s a lot of work left to do on that front. Bruce is still short of several players, and a number of players who aren’t part of his plans need moving out of the club. There’s still time - the summer transfer window closes on October 5 - but Bruce will want as many players through the door as possible ahead of the season-opener against West Ham United next weekend. A striker, in particular, is badly needed with Dwight Gayle out for some time.”
As well as signings, do you imagine Newcastle will sanction departures?
LK: “Christian Atsu to Celtic is one that seems to have legs and I’d imagine Yoshinori Muto is being opened to all takers, I mean any taker. The problem United genuinely have is that the players they want to shift are far from in-demand. And it could be a struggle in that sense. If Matt Ritchie had to be sacrificed to get in Callum Wilson, I think that one’s a no brainer.”
MS: “Yes. Bruce has talked about “boxing clever” this summer, and part of that strategy, undoubtedly, is moving on players who aren’t in his plans. There are players on good money at the club - and who could command fees - who fall into that category at a time when Bruce is having to wheel and deal and bring in free agents.”
What is a realistic aim for Bruce and United this season?
LK: “It is really sad sitting at the start of a Premier League season and our only hope is a repeat of last season. But being brutally honest I think a cup run and a lower mid-table finish is the only realistic aim. Have a positive season and breaking the top 10 is a remote possibility but I think a slide down from last season’s 13th is a little more likely.”
MS: “There isn’t much discernable optimism on Tyneside ahead of the new season given that Mike Ashley remains owner, but Bruce and his players will feel that a top-half finish is realistic. The club, however, finished 10 points behind 10th-placed Burnley last season, closing that gap won’t be easy. Newcastle’s hopes of finishing in the top half will depend, at least in part, on what happens in the transfer market between now and the deadline.”
And is silence still golden when it comes to the PCP/PIF/Reubens' interest in buying NUFC?
LK: “Yes. And as I’ve said before on here, things are moving and that can only be a good thing for the bid. All parties are still IN, despite people’s understandable doubts. And the fact that now talks are taking place behind closed doors is positive. It should have been like this from the beginning. If it had been it would not have invited the lobbying against the bid by numerous different sources.”
MS: “I think we’d have heard by now if there was no chance of the deal being resurrected. The fact that nobody is talking or leaking, I believe, is potentially significant. Many people are still behind this deal, and we should find out soon whether there’s any kind of way forward.”