After the Premier League played out the very final round of matches, we are now into the Newcastle United close season.
An ideal time to get a snapshot of views from Newcastle United fans on how they think things are going.
So we sent out various sets of questions to a number of regular / irregular contributors to The Mag.
The five current players, in order, who you would love to stay injury free and available for the whole 2023/24 season?
Bruno. I think he’s as fine a player as we’ve had for a long time. I’m assuming that some cover will be incoming this summer as he can’t be expected to play every game all the time – but more than anyone else he’s the one where we look like a far inferior side when he’s not playing.
Trippier. Very similar to what I’ve just said about Bruno – we are nowhere near as good a team without him.
Isak. Different to the above in that we do have some cover for him, but he is such a talent that I fancy with a full season, all-guns-blazing, we could have one of the world’s best players on our hands.
Botman. Unflustered, granite-hard – you want him there in the middle of your defence for the season.
Joelinton. There are plenty of others who you could put in this top five but I love Joelinton.
I’m sure if I dug back into my past contributions into The Mag there would be stuff by me calling him all sorts – let’s face it, he was a comedy player. But now? He’s everything I want out of a Newcastle player – class on the ball, works his socks off, hard as nails, and looks magnificent. I always want to see Joelinton in the team.
Signings that you believe could be possible now, that wouldn’t have been if not finishing top four and able to offer Champions League football?
I’m not going to answer this with names. I always thought that getting top four was far more important than winning the League Cup (and I said so in The Mag at the time of the Final). Not because I’m not desperate to see us win things – but the League Cup is a bit tin-pot. I want to see us win one of the big prizes. And the only way we do that is by building up the club – building up the finances, and building up the depth of the squad.
Leave Man City aside – for the time being they’re on a different level to everyone else – but if I compare our top 15-or-so players with the likes of Liverpool, Man Utd, etc I think they stand comparison. Where we are lacking is squad depth. We’ve been lucky this season in that we haven’t really suffered too badly with injuries. When you consider we’ve gone the whole season playing with a midfield three – and really only four first-rank players to fill that three out of (Bruno / Joelinton / Longstaff / Willock) – it seems clear to me that what we need for next season isn’t a couple of big-name signings . We need depth right across the squad. At least two in midfield. Probably a young 3rd-choice striker (imagine if Wilson or Isak picks up a long-term injury in August – you can’t expect the other one to play 90 mins every game). And a full-back.
The difference UCL qualification makes is that, instead of being able to bring in one or two extra players for the first team squad, hopefully we’ll be able to add four or five.
Five stand out (for whatever reasons) NUFC goals in the 2022/23 season and put them in order please?
I’ve got a terrible memory for this sort of thing – so I’ve had to watch this to remind myself
It’s well worth 40 mins of your time.
There are so many absolute belters.
Isak – Spurs (H) – Willock’s assist, Isak’s finish – glorious. What a match
Almiron – Fulham (A) – probably Goal of the Season
Murphy – Everton (A) – not for the goal, but Isak’s assist – ridiculous
Isak – Wolves (H) – it’s a bit of a personal kink, but there’s nothing I like more than a top quality cross and header combo.
There are easily another dozen I could easily have put in there.
How would you describe your life now, including the black and white part, compared to summer 2021 (back then it was pre-takeover, Ashley and Bruce, just coming out of lockdown restrictions, stadiums yet to open fully to fans, so many different life circumstances for everybody)?
Football during lockdown seemed to me like a complete waste of time – if it had been up to me I would have just cancelled it altogether. Coupled with the situation at NUFC, with a terrible owner, a laughably bad manager, and a poor team playing terrible football – in my NUFC-watching lifetime that would have been a lowpoint. Not because it was the worst I’ve seen – I’ve seen plenty of Newcastle teams and players over the years who have been far worse. But at least back in the day when you were standing watching the likes of Pat Heard or Frank Pingel stumbling around the pitch it was a bit of a laugh, and you always had some hope for the future. In 2021 it was much worse, as it got to the point where you didn’t really care much anymore.
So the takeover was a marvellous thing – the only comparisons I’ve got are Keegan’s first coming in 1982, and his second coming as manager in the 90s. They were great days – best days of your lives. And this season has been right up there with the best.
The only downside for me personally is that I live a long, long way away from St James’ Park. For the last 15 years or so I’ve been able to make three or four pilgrimages a season to visit family and go to the match. But now I’m one of the thousands locked out. Thankfully these days, if you have a tech-savvy youngster handy you never need to miss any live football home or away so I’ve been able to see every single minute of the season, home and away. It’s not the same as being there, mind – but it’s been fantastic.
A couple of years ago the close season felt like a blessed relief – this year I felt close to tears as the final curtain came down.
Newcastle United having an ever increasing global fanbase, how do you feel about it? Positives? Negatives? Observations?
My son lives in the Czech Republic. A couple of years ago his partner’s family wouldn’t even have heard of Newcastle. Now, father-in-law watches every match. The same thing will be happening all over the world millions and millions of times.
There’s a pleasure in being part of a small band of die-hards, but if you give me the choice between being rubbish with nobody interested, and being fantastic with the whole world watching, I know which one I prefer.
If you look at the 2023/24 season for Newcastle United, what would you see as:
The only thing which worries me about the next season or two is that expectations get out of whack and people start grumbling as soon as we’re not brilliant.
The season 22/23 was like a complete bonus – there were no expectations to disappoint, but that won’t be the case next season. So the only thing I fear for next season which would disappoint me would be for supporters to forget how far we’ve come and to leave behind their gratitude to the people who’ve been responsible for it.
Satisfactory would be for us to keep the core of the current staff in place, try to play good entertaining football, build the financial side of the club to get closer to the ‘big 6’ on turnover, and spend the season in the top half with an eye on European qualification in some form for 24/25.
Good would be to give somewhere close to the levels of entertainment and excitement as this season, get Champions League qualification again or come close, have a respectable run at the other competitions we’re in, and get to this point next year with the same off-field staff, and a slightly stronger playing staff.
If we could get to this day next year with Eddie Howe as Manager of the Year and plans approved for a major extension of St James’ Park, that would be my idea of outstanding.
Online I wouldn’t care – people tend to be crackers online and I wouldn’t pay any attention.
In the real world? There’s a part of all football fans that enjoys other teams’ misfortunes and envies their success. You can see that with, say, Chelsea this season – as an outsider I look at them and think ‘what a laugh!’ And the other side of the coin is that fans of other teams are bound to look at Newcastle’s rise with a certain amount of bad grace. You can’t complain about it too much when we all do it with other teams. That’s just life.
However, one of the things I love about being a real football fan is that as you go through life, you recognise other real football fans when you meet them.
The other day I watched Luton getting promoted and I spent a while thinking fondly of my old pal Malcolm, now sadly no longer with us, and how happy he would have been to see that. I like to think that there are people out there, old friends and colleagues of mine over the years, some of them who I haven’t seen for decades, who will have looked at the results this season, thought of me, and said to themselves, ‘bloody hell – old Magpie will be happy tonight!’