With all the off-field antics, it’s easy to forget that Newcastle’s next Premier League campaign kicks off in five weeks. The Magpies have a rough start, welcoming Arsenal to St James’ Park.
How full St James’ Park will be remains to be seen. Multiple fans on social media have spoke about how they have cancelled their season ticket, while others have called for supporters to boycott the game on August 11th.
But whether fans turn up or watch at home or in a pub on Sky Sports, Newcastle will be starting the season with a very tough game, in what will be the first competitive outing for the new manager. We don’t know who that will be yet.
Ayoze Perez has gone to Leicester. Salomon Rondon won’t be coming back after his loan spell. Mo Diame has found a new club after his contract came to an end. And Isaac Hayden will, for his sake, have a new club further down south near his family.
It’s three years since we were in the Championship, starting the season away to Fulham. We lost that game 1-0, and three years on, eight players who featured in that game could start the season in the Newcastle first-team picture.
Newcastle have barely progressed in three years since being in the Championship
At the back, captain Jamaal Lascelles and Paul Dummett will likely start against Arsenal. They were mainstays in the Championship, but they’ve managed to prove themselves in the top flight as well. No complaints there.
Then you’ve got Matt Ritchie, who has also been a reliable player in both the second and first tier. Jonjo Shelvey appeared off the bench against Fulham three years ago, and you’d like to think he’ll get another chance after falling down the pecking order under Rafa Benitez.
Isaac Hayden started the game against Fulham, but he’ll be praying he’s moved on by the time Arsenal arrive at St James’ Park.
But this is where things start to look a bit more bleak. The other three players who featured on August 5th 2016 are: Dwight Gayle, Jack Colback and Rolando Aarons. And all three of those players are back training with the first-team.
Depending on the levels of squad investment, they might have to play against the Gunners.
It just shows how little resources Benitez got to take the club forward. The players that got us out of the Championship are still here, and are suddenly closer to the starting XI than they have been for a while.