Despite the almost total absence of investment over the summer Newcastle United still look in good shape for their return to the Premiership. Chris Hughton may not have a multi million pound budget at his disposal but the nucleus of the squad which played in the Premiership last time is still intact.
Furthermore a number of Newcastle United players who had previously underachieved for the club in the Premiership have had productive seasons in the Championship. Kevin Nolan looked the latest in a long line of disappointing Newcastle signings when he joined the club midway through the relegation season. He has been a revelation in the Championship scoring 18 goals in all competitions, which is 18 more than he managed for the club in half a season in the Premiership.
Shola Amoebi also had his most prolific season to date scoring 11 goals in 21 appearances. Had he not missed much of the season due to injury he could conceivably have got 30 goals.
Amoebi has flattered to deceive during his time on Tyneside and a move to Ipswich Town only fell through because of concerns over his fitness. While Amoebi’s injury record will be cause for concern it is doubtful whether Newcastle would be willing to countenance selling the striker today. He will be looking to finally realise his undeniable potential by making an impression on the Premiership this season.
He may have competition from another home grown centre forward, Andy Carroll. The term ‘off the pitch problems’ has become synonymous with Newcastle and Carroll has been a major culprit. Incidents such as the one which saw Carroll break club captain Steven Taylor’s jaw in a training ground bust up earlier this year will not have endeared him to the club’s hierarchy.
His form on the pitch will have helped to make amends as he managed a career best 19 goals last season, averaging a goal almost every other game. As a result he has been awarded the legendary number nine shirt worn by the likes of Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn. While goals will not come as easily for either Amoebi or Carroll against Premiership defences both will be hoping that they can carry on where they left off last season.
A strikeforce featuring both Amoebi and Carroll would be almost totally bereft of pace so Newcastle might look to another striker to fill the role once occupied by either Michael Owen or Obefemi Martins. Peter Lovenkrands managed 13 goals in the Championship and is likely to feature again. Leon Best, by contrast, could not manage to find the back of the net in 13 attempts last season and looks unlikely to set the Premiership alight.
Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini have formed a solid looking partnership in central defence and will be supplemented by veteran centre back Sol Campbell and former Portsmouth defender Mike Williamson. In Ryan Taylor, Jose Enrique and Danny Simpson the club already have a healthy collection of full backs while recent arrivals Dan Gosling and James Perch will add some much needed versatility to the squad.
Danny Guthrie, Joey Barton and Alan Smith all bring Premiership experience to the midfield while Jonas Gutierrez, fresh from a World Cup campaign with Argentina, and Wayne Routledge will provide the width. Steve Harper has always been too accomplished a keeper to merely warm Newcastle’s bench and should provide a reliable presence between the sticks.
Newcastle United have never really struggled due to a lack of quality or experience. The problem has been that players who arrive with big reputations have an alarming tendency to underachieve at the club. The successful Championship season should give the current crop of players confidence that they can play together and the lack of transfer activity at the club in the pre season should at least ensure some much needed stability.
Newcastle probably posses the strongest side to have come up from the Championship in recent history. With the quality and experience at his disposal Hughton’s side should be good enough to at least avoid relegation. Whatever happens it is good to have Newcastle Utd back where they belong in the English football elite. Sold out stadiums are what the Premiership should be all about and there are unlikely to be many empty seats at St James’s Park this season.
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