The job for Rafa Benitez's successor at Newcastle United just got even harder

Fifty-three days after they left the field, jubilant, at Craven Cottage, Newcastle United’s players were back at the club’s training ground.

By Miles Starforth
Thursday, 04 July, 2019, 16:45
Dwight Gayle.

But there was no Rafa Benitez to greet them.

And Ayoze Perez – who scored the last of his 12 Premier League goals in the club’s 4-0 win over Fulham on May 12 – wasn’t there either.

Perez, instead, was 184 miles away signing for Leicester City in a £30million deal. Club sources maintain that the fee will be reinvested, but supporters, understandably, are cynical. And angry.

There wasn’t any shortage of players at the club’s Benton base, however, as Dwight Gayle, Jacob Murphy, Jack Colback and Achraf Lazaar were all back on Tyneside following their loans last season. As for how long they’ll be there, that’s anyone’s guess. Goalkeeper Nathan Harker and two Academy team-mates were also called up.

Neil Redfearn, the club’s newly-appointed Under-23 coach, was there to greet them along with Ben Dawson, the Academy’s head of coaching.

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It was a sunny day on Tyneside, but the outlook for the coming season, in the eyes of fans, is already bleak without Benitez. The loss of Perez has made the job of his successor a little harder given that he has been the club’s leading goalscorer for the past two seasons.

Gone is the optimism of May. Supporters at Craven Cottage got a glimpse of what they hoped would be a brighter future under Benitez. But the 59-year-old, unhappy at the terms of a one-year contract, left the club when his deal expired on Sunday.

Few expect 29-year-old striker Salomon Rondon, also on target against Fulham, to be back given the club’s longstanding reluctance to invest heavily in older players, and Benitez’s successor will have to find goals from somewhere. Steve Nickson, the club’s head of recruitment, drew up lists of potential transfer targets with Benitez last season. Will the club now work through these lists?

The club is looking to recruit a successor before the squad heads to China for the Premier League Asia Trophy next weekend.

This summer couldn’t have gone much worse so far for Newcastle. Can it only get better?