Here our writers Miles Starforth, Liam Kennedy and Jordan Cronin take a look at whether this summer could be a busy one, or quiet, on Tyneside.
Will this summer be a transformative one for Newcastle United in terms of transfers, or are we unlikely to see many ins and outs at SJP?
MS: “I think we’re looking at evolution rather than revolution at the club this summer, and supporters expecting a transformative summer of dealings will be disappointed given the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing efforts to force through a takeover to a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium. That said, there will be a few ins and outs.”
LK: “Unlikely to be transformative. Expect some wheeling and dealing but nothing that will turn United into a force. Unless, of course, the legal wheels turn a lot quicker than they have been of late and there is a breakthrough on the takeover front. I am hopeful and positive on that front, however, the last 15 or 16 months has taught us all that holding our breath for a resolution would be very unwise.”
JC: “I think there is potential for a few of ins and outs but that’s unlikely to be transformative. If transfer funds are as low as believed, then there could be some players that are sacrificed.”
Are the rumours about a low summer budget true?
MS: “Yes, I believe so. Steve Bruce has been quite open about the likely impact of the pandemic on his budget. The club recruited three free agents last summer, and Bruce will again be looking at potential Bosman signings and loans. That said, if Bruce can move any players out for a fee, that would strengthen his hand in the summer market.”
LK: “The word coming out of the club since the turn of the year has been that budgets will be tight and have been significantly hamstrung by the impact of Covid. The supporter shut out has had a major impact on United’s ticket and commercial revenues., I’m told. However, all the talk of numbers, at this stage, is hot air, as no football club worth their salt would reveal their hand at this stage. The exact summer budget will be known, but it is unlikely to be truthfully publicised.”
JC: “I won’t be surprised in the slightest if Steve Bruce operates on a smaller budget this summer. Supporters being locked out of St James’s Park will have undoubtedly left a huge hole in the club’s matchday finances. Still, with TV and prize money still to come, I do question why it’d be, as rumoured, around the £12m mark. Then again, I’m no finance expert!”
How many players do you think will likely walk through the door?
MS: “Like last summer, I’d imagine we’ll be looking at around four signings, though the scale of the club’s transfer activity will be partly dependent on the outcome of contract talks with Federico Fernandez and a number of other players, notably Dwight Gayle.”
LK: “I think United will sign at least three players this summer. Bruce has stated he wants three or four – and I think he will at least get that, with the loan market one United could well exploit, breaking their usual practice of keeping their loan business mainly until January.”
JC: “I’d hope for three new signings at least. The free agent market is fairly strong this summer and loans have proven to be effective, though that tends to happen more in the January time.”
What key positions will Steve Bruce be targeting in the summer market?
MS: “Bruce will need to look again at the spine of the team. Can he re-sign Joe Willock? If not, what does he do? Also, last season underlined the squad’s vulnerability to an injury to Callum Wilson. Gayle didn’t take his chance last season, while Andy Carroll, out of contract this summer, didn’t get an opportunity.”
LK: “The head coach will want at least one midfielder, one attacker and a defender. I’d imagine that would be the bare minimum. If Matt Ritchie leaves, he’ll want a left-back, too.”
JC: “He desperately needs a central midfielder – whether that be Joe Willock or someone similar because that is an area that lacks serious energy. Clearly, a central defender is wanted. It’s important to find a back-up striker to Callum Wilson, too, even if it is a free agent, someone like Josh King.”
Who do you think will leave the club this summer?
MS: “The most likely departures are players around the fringes of the squad, and we’ve already seen Christian Atsu leave the club following the expiry of his contract. Then there’s Florian Lejeune and Yoshinori Muto, who spent last season out on loan and don’t appear to have futures at the club under Bruce. Matt Ritchie, a target for Bournemouth in recent windows, is also a potential departee.”
LK: “You have to take a look at the players who played very little last season – and without doubt they’ll be the closest to the chopping block. Karl Darlow may be one who is frustrated with his lack of games, although is a player United need as a back up. Freddie Woodman is likely to exit, but is more likely to be a loan than permanent. Matt Ritchie could exit also, having been very close to doing so in January. And the likes of Dwight Gayle, Andy Carroll and Matty Longstaff, Florian Lejeune and Yoshinori Muto must have question marks over their heads. If it was down to me, two players who’d I’d likely usher out the door would be Emil Krafth and Jeff Hendrick. I’m not sure either really adds all that much value to the squad.”
JC: “Players sacrificed could well include either Karl Darlow or Freddie Woodman, because United don’t need both whilst Martin Dubravka is around. Matt Ritchie wants regular game time and Bruce can’t guarantee it, although I’d be sad to see him go. Elsewhere, Dwight Gayle, for me, needs to be offered to a promotion-chasing Championship club after a season of struggle. Matty Longstaff? I wouldn’t blame the player one bit for leaving after effectively being unfairly frozen out last term. Yoshinori Muto is deadwood and Florian Lejeune seemingly has not future at the club.”