The new season is nearly upon us, at the time of writing we are a week away from the opening fixture against Spurs. For me Rafa Benitez means a feel good factor. The persistent rumours of being behind the scenes unrest won’t abate however. Ever the diplomat, Rafa has gave nothing away to the press with his answers; an astute politician and world class manager. However the transfers need to keep coming otherwise the Gaffer will not be happy.

I’m going to give an insight into our squad for the coming season, some personal insight and a mark out of ten from Rafa; hypothetically speaking. To continue to write for a superb, well respected fanzine is a privilege and a pleasure.


Rob Elliott: An experienced head who for me was a really good stand in when Tim Krul and others have been injured, I do wonder though if Rafa sees Robbie as a reliable back up. Personally the shot stopping is brilliant and that smash and grab at Bournemouth proved this. Kicking and distribution is a bit erratic however. A 7/10 from the Gaffer.

Karl Darlow: For me last season he came of age and showed brilliant maturity beyond his years. His shot stopping; especially after the near calamitous mistake that nearly resulted in a goal against Rotherham. The big man recovered in that game and made a brilliant save. Remember that shaky game vs West Brom under Mcclaren? It’s like night and day. For me you sense Rafa might instil Karl as his number 1? Then again rumours outline he could be heading for an exit. 9/10 from Rafa.

Tim Krul: Outstanding servant for the Toon, no doubt about it, however, some indifferent form, as well as injuries has meant the flying Dutchman has found it difficult to recapture the form of 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 season. The loan spell in his native home land will have increased the confidence, I sense Rafa will lean towards thanking Tim , however moving for a new keeper in the window 6/10-Rafa will look to bring in a new keeper, the lower scoring was down to the injuries and loss of form.

Ciarian Clark – Coming in from Villa, left more than a few fans sceptical about the move last summer, for me it outlines that within the right coaching structure and more importantly a winning ethos, players can flourish, if you’ve obtained international caps you’re a decent player. Clark was so composed on the ball , can defend and win the aerial battles, what impressed me most was the vocal encouragement and organisation he brings to the defence, a calming influence 9.5/10, I’d argue a first name on the team sheet.

Jamaal Lascelles : A skipper who gives everything between him and Clark sharing duties is a testament to the faith Rafa has in both, the youthful exuberance and rashness in terms of positioning ; I think back to the Leeds draw at St James’ on Good Friday, means there is still plenty of work to do. The calling out in that infamous defeat at St . Mary’s was brave and admirable. Love the bullishness; it’s an old school way of defending, hard but fair. Will be a massive asset in the coming season, a veteran head beside him will be ideal. An attacking threat at set pieces. 8/10 from King Rafa.

Paul Dummett: An unsung hero for me, someone who always gives his all. I think the quality of the delivery going forward has improved, still a bit suspect defensively. Will fill in across the defence and a good honest pro. 7/10

Javi Manquillo- The new summer signing, in an area for where we badly needed some stability, especially given that we’re going to be given a stern test all season, none more so than the opener against Spurs. A replacement, you sense, for our stand in right back Anita, who moved on to Leeds. Manquillo has good pedigree- Sunderland aside of course! Seriously though someone who has been in Athletico Madrid’s first team and played for Marseille has to be a massive asset in the coming season. Rafa’s contacts across Europe will be critical for the season ahead. This lad I’m optimistic about. 8/10

Florian Lejeune- Another Frenchman you say ! By the name of Florian ……can only spell one thing. Disaster! Thankfully I’m not too cynical. A centre half by trade but can also play in midfield again I’ll reserve judgment and give the lad a chance. A conservative 6/10.

Jacob Murphy- Another new recruit, who has pace in abundance and can contribute with a goal as well. Going by recent analysis , can play either as a winger or striker, goals from various sources will be essential. I’m much looking forward to seeing our Jacob score some crackers! 7/10

Players such as Hayden, Shelvey, and Ritchie, along with Christian Atsu will have pace, guile and trickery, all four have superb delivery from the wings and set pieces, the players highlighted get you out of your seat as a fan. All four score a 9/10.

I’d rate all four as indispensible to our success of building and consolidating in our first season back in the Premiership. Hayden’s ability to break up play and feed Ritchie and Atsu on the wings, with their quality of delivery, it’s something that all good strikers will thrive off.

On that topic yes, indeed strikers, Mitro……….well where do we start I’m a big fan of his, the passion and rugged centre forwards approach is admirable, I do question the ability to score regularly. I always thought him and Perez had the makings of a partnership, it didn’t materialise. I do hope Perez maintains a place in our squad so skillful and an opportunist. The Championship didn’t suit him too lightweight, for me without his goals in the past we’d have been door earlier than the 2015-2016 season. The strikers 5/10 for Mitro, if Perez plays up front 7/10 for me.

Sam Wilson

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