Newcastle United secured promotion back to the Premier League five years ago, so where are the Magpies side that won the 2016/17 Championship title under Rafa Benitez now?
The Toon spent one season back in the second-tier during Benitez’s time at the St James’ Park helm. He elected to remain committed to the club’s cause following relegation from the top-flight, having replaced Steve McClaren for the final 10 games of the 2015/16 term.
Mike Ashley fired McClaren in March of that campaign after winning just six of 28 Premier League matches in charge. Results under the former England boss left the club one place off the bottom of the table. Yet Benitez then moved United to within two points of safety.
A final day rout of Tottenham Hotspur, claiming a 5-1 win at St James’, was irrelevant with relegation confirmed with a game spare. Georginio Wijnaldum was then the marquee sale as the Dutchman joined Liverpool for £25m, as Benitez started building a second-tier side.
Among those to arrive included Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie. Benitez paid Crystal Palace £10m for their striker and Bournemouth £12m for their winger. Both remain at Newcastle, so where are the other stars from the side that won the 2016/17 Championship title now?
Karl Darlow (GK): Star of Newcastle side that won Championship title now unseen
Newcastle signed Karl Darlow from Nottingham Forest in 2014 but agreed to loan him back for a season. The goalkeeper then spent 2015/16 predominantly on the bench at St James’ before relegation from the Premier League presented him with a chance to oust Matz Sels.
Sels was Benitez’s first Magpies purchase when joining from Gent for £6.5m, yet his initial form proved disappointing. Darlow took over between the sticks from the 10th second-tier game of the season and he remained first-choice until the final three with 13 clean sheets.
Yet Benitez would rarely favour Darlow once Newcastle were back in the Premier League. The 31-year-old played just nine games in 2016/17, 10 in ‘17/18 and then spent the next two seasons unseen. Steve Bruce would make him the first-choice for 25 games in ‘20/21.
And Darlow is still at Newcastle today from the side that won the Championship title five years ago. But he has seldom featured this season with just eight appearances across all competitions. Each of his outings have also come without Eddie Howe on the touchline.
DeAndre Yedlin (RB): Defender now back home in America after Turkey stint
DeAndre Yedlin was a late-window arrival in August 2016 as Benitez raided Tottenham to sign the right-back for £5m. The American replaced Daryl Janmaat, who joined Watford for £7.5m after the Dutchman – now playing with ADO Den Hag – spent two years at United.
Benitez would field Yedlin in 27 second-tier fixtures, with starting roles in 21 games for six assists and one goal. He would remain at Newcastle until February 2021, when Bruce gave the 72-cap ace permission to join Galatasaray for free with his contract expiring that year.
Yet one of the stars of the Newcastle side that won the Championship title five years ago only spent a year in Turkey. He is now back in America after David Beckham’s Inter Miami signed Yedlin this February. The 28-year-old enjoyed 125 appearances for the Magpies.
Jamaal Lascelles (CB): Captain who won Championship could now lose Newcastle role
Jamaal Lascelles joined Newcastle in a double-deal from Nottingham Forest with Darlow in 2014 for £7m. He would prove an instant starter following Benitez’s arrival two years later, and also earned the captaincy following the Magpies’ relegation from the Premier League.
Benitez started Lascelles in 41 games as part of the Newcastle side that won the title in the 2016/17 Championship campaign. And the centre-half would remain a first-choice at St James’ afterwards up to last season, when the 28-year-old suffered several injury layoffs.
Howe has also shown he can make do without Lascelles since replacing Bruce at the helm in November 2021. The Derby-born enforcer could even now lose the captaincy over the summer, as The Sun report Lascelles is among 10 players who the boss may look to sell.
Ciaran Clark (CB): Benitez arrival now not even in Newcastle squad
Benitez completed a £5m transfer to sign Ciaran Clark from Aston Villa in August 2016 for central and left-back depth. The Republic of Ireland international would go on to feature 34 times – starting each – as part of the Newcastle side that won the Championship title.
Yet success in the second-tier would return the 36-cap enforcer’s only period as a regular at St James’ Park. He has amassed just 80 Premier League appearances with the Magpies over the past five terms. Clark made his most single-season outings in 2020/21 with 22.
Bruce often kept faith in Clark at the start of the current campaign before Newcastle fired him following the takeover. A red card after just nine minutes at home to Norwich City in November and in a friendly this January then saw Howe omit Clark from his league squad.
Paul Dummett (LB): Star of Newcastle side that won Championship now pens new deal
Paul Dummett was a star of the Newcastle side that won the Championship title five years ago and has now earned a new contract at St James’ Park. Despite rarely featuring so far this term, he has agreed to sign a one-year extension with his previous deal ending in June.
Benitez fielded Dummett in all but one second-tier fixture during the 2016/17 season as he sat out match four. Other than a 1-0 win away to Bristol City, Dummett started in 44 of his 45 total appearances. He also captained the Magpies during a 4-1 win at home to Reading.
Jonjo Shelvey (CDM): Instrumental star of title win may now face uncertain future
Jonjo Shelvey arrived at St James’ in January 2016 in a £12m deal with Swansea City under McClaren. However, the former England international was unable to help the Toon avoid relegation. But the midfielder would prove instrumental in sealing an immediate return.
The six-cap Three Lions star scored five goals and offered nine assists across his 42 outings in the Newcastle side that won the Championship. Shelvey is still at St James’ today, but he may soon face an uncertain future as the 30-year-old enters the final year of his contract.
Isaac Hayden (CDM): Championship winner could now leave Newcastle in 2022
Newcastle signed a 21-year-old Isaac Hayden from Arsenal for the 2016/17 Championship season after the midfielder had failed to breakthrough at the Emirates Stadium. He would play 33 times on route to the title, while offering two goals and three assists as the anchor.
Yet despite continuing to hold an instrumental presence at St James’ across the following four-and-a-half seasons, Hayden has not featured since December after requiring surgery on a knee injury. Howe then left the midfielder out of his 25-man Premier League squad.
Hayden could now find he is finished as a Newcastle player this summer after 171 games in all competitions. The Sun also include the 27-year-old among the list of 10 players Howe is prepared to sell with Clark, Lascelles, Ritchie, Gayle and Darlow to improve his budget.
Matt Ritchie (RW): Rarely seen now but key in Newcastle side that won Championship
Ritchie faces an uncertain Tyneside future six years after his arrival as the 16-cap Scotland international enters the final year of his contract in June. He has also seldom featured with Howe at the helm since the boss was able to sign Matt Targett on loan in the January sales.
The winger was a mainstay of Benitez’s Newcastle side that won the Championship title in 2016/17. He featured 42 times for 12 goals and eight assists after leaving Bournemouth – only Gayle would score more than Ritchie, who offered the second-most assists to Shelvey.
Mohamed Diame (CAM): Championship winner with Newcastle now in La Liga 2
Mohamed Diame played 37 games in the Newcastle side that won the Championship title, and now plies his trade in Spain’s second-tier. The attacking midfielder also offered three goals and three assists over 37 English second-tier outings as Benitez started him 27 times.
The 35-cap Senegal international remained at St James’ until 2019 when Al-Ahli signed him for free. Diame then spent two years in Qatar and six months as a free agent before joining Fuenlabrada on a short-term deal, where the 34-year-old has struggled to make an impact.
Yoan Gouffran (LW): Former Toon forward called time on career in October
Yoan Gouffran was a key presence in the Newcastle side that won the Championship, but is now retired. The Frenchman called time on his career in October 2021 following an 18 month spell featuring 50 appearances with Armenian Premier League side Ararat-Armenia.
United released Gouffran in 2017 upon winning the second-tier after four seasons at St James’. He only made more appearances for Bordeaux (180) than with the Magpies (141) – including 39 for five goals and four assists under Benitez on route to sealing promotion.
Dwight Gayle (ST): Top-scorer of Championship title win now on fringes at Newcastle
Gayle fired Newcastle to the Championship title in 2016/17 as the Magpies’ top-scorer on 23 goals. Only Chris Wood scored more often in the second-tier that term as the forward hit 27 for Leeds. Yet Gayle now finds himself playing second fiddle to Wood at Newcastle.
United have never seen Gayle prove himself as a Premier League player with 11 goals in 80 top-flight games in black-and-white. He has also only scored once in his last 25 outings since the start of the 2020/21 season, having played just seven times for 30 minutes this term.
Bruce and secondly Howe have never shown faith in Gayle so far this season. His longest appearance to date was a 13 minute cameo at Wolves on October 2. He is also yet to start a game this season, and has only featured four times for 10 minutes with Howe in charge.