What next for Newcastle United after Premier League safety is secured? Lessons to learn and Steve Bruce's future under the microscope
Newcastle United are officially safe in the Premier League after the wheels finally came off Fulham’s faltering campaign at Burnley.
But what next for the Magpies? Here our writers Miles Starforth, Liam Kennedy and Jordan Cronin discuss safety, Manchester City and what lessons should be learned from a disappointing campaign in 2020/21.
Straight question, did you expect Newcastle to be safe with three games to go?
MS: “No, I feared that it would go to the wire after the defeat to Brighton in March, and that Newcastle may need something from their final game against Fulham. Thankfully, it didn't come to that.”
LK: “I didn’t. I’m not sure many did. Truth is, though, United were only dragged in by themselves and that shocker of a run from December to February. They weren’t in the mess because the bottom three got better – they’ve been consistently poor throughout the season.”
JC: “Absolutely not. I was convinced it was going to the final day after that Brighton defeat. Fulham had opportunities to make it interesting but in the end, I sort of forgot how poor they actually were.”
How do United make sure next season does not turn into another battle at the bottom?
MS: “If we assume that Mike Ashley will still be the owner, and that Steve Bruce will still be the coach, then it’ll all come down to the recruitment. All areas need looking at in the next window, though Bruce has already made it clear that there won’t be much to spend due to the financial cost of the coronavirus pandemic. The club recruited well last summer, yet still found itself fighting relegation. That said, the arrival of Graeme Jones in January has strengthened the coaching team, and having him on the training pitch in pre-season should help better prepare the team for next season.”
LK: “Recruit well. Money will be tight but January’s business proves you can add quality for little outlay. Newcastle need to make sure injuries to key starters does not transform the side from a mid-table one to a bottom three one. I think the summer with Graeme Jones on board will also be key. United have shown more facets to their tactical game since his arrival and I hope that only continues to grow.”
JC: “While I’m not sure it’d guarantee success, I think Steve Bruce should go. Newcastle’s struggles this season, in my eyes, have largely been down to him and I genuinely believe this squad is capable of so much more. That said, I expect him to stay put, which means the transfer market – perhaps a few free agents such as Andros Townsend – and developing an identity are key. A takeover would be nice, of course.”
What is United's summer priority?
MS: “More competition up front will be high up the priority list, as will another loan, or even permanent move, for Joe Willock. Also, a new deal for Federico Fernandez is a must, as the club can ill-afford to lose a defender of his experience and quality.”
LK: “They need a midfield rebuild, whether than includes Joe Willock is up for debate. They also need to sort out uncertainty over the futures of a number of defenders and prioritise replacing their two back up strikers with one quality one.”
JC: “They need a back-up striker to Callum Wilson – he won’t stay fit for the entire season, which is a big blow, especially when Bruce is in charge. Also, sign Willock if possible or similar – a box-to-box midfielder who is capable of scoring the odd goal.”
Steve Bruce has refused to confirm whether he will remain as head coach, do you think he'll be in the dugout in August?
MS: “If Ashley is still owner, I’d expect Bruce to be in the dugout for the first game of next season. Bruce - who has another year left on his contract - has delivered for Ashley for the past two seasons, and it seems certain that he’ll stand by him.”
LK: “Yes. I struggle to see a scenario where he isn’t, bar a change of ownership. I think his coy answers when questioned will turn out to be nothing more than bluster.”
JC: “I’ve got no doubt in my mind Bruce will remain in charge next season. While he’s unpopular among supporters, he’s done exactly what Ashley wants him to do.”
How do United replace Callum Wilson... AGAIN?
MS: “Put simply, the club doesn’t have another player like him. However, surely it’s time for Dwight Gayle to get another chance seeing as the club has reportedly agreed a new deal with the striker.”
LK: “I think Joelinton should come back into the side. I can see something in the case for Gayle and also a last hurrah for Andy Carroll, but the Brazilian was in OK form before Wilson came back in.”
JC: “They can’t. No one can replicate his goals. Hopefully, Joelinton can build on his improved performances or bring back Carroll in for sentimental value.”
Score predictions for Man City…
MS: “I hope I’m wrong but I’m going for a 3-1 away win for City.”
LK: “I can’t see past an away win for Pep Guardiola’s men with the title still in their sights. A routine 2-0 win likely.”
JC: “This is City’s chance to win the title against a team with nothing to play for – and I don’t expect them to pass up the chance. 3-0 to the visitors.”