The richest football club in the world. Transfer war-chest. Fantasy football. All of the cliches have been trotted out since the club were taken over by the PIF-led consortium, and who can blame fans for considering even the remotest possibility of signings the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland and Mauro Icardi.

In reality though, key members of the consortium have made their approach clear, with George Caulkin of The Athletic noting repeatedly that all decisions will be ‘process-driven’. There will be a strategic, methodical approach applied to all aspects of football business – just because you have untold wealth, it shouldn’t mean you fritter it away on ludicrously high transfer fees and wage packets with little return.

This is not an ownership group who are here to smash the transfer market in one window, and with that in mind, it will be interesting when January rolls round what type of player we do target.

In this humble writer’s opinion, the club should focus on the following profile:

  • Seasoned Premier League performers but with something to prove and who are wanting to test themselves at a higher level i.e. a club targeting honours and European football
  • Leaders and characters, individuals who can build a culture of winning within the dressing room and hold team-mates and coaches to account.
  • Players who would see the move to a newly ambitious Newcastle as a step up, not a step down
  • ‘Big fishes in little ponds’ – targeting the best players from Premier league clubs outside of the nominal (and soon to be redundant) ‘Big 6’ to strengthen ourselves and weaken our rivals
  • Avoid players who’ve already peaked or are injury-prone who would see a move to Tyneside as a payday

With that comprehensive list of criteria, True Faith looks at the following players as potential signings to kick-start a new era:

James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

One-club man Ward-Prowse is Southampton’s captain and an experienced midfield operator in the top flight with over 250 Premier League appearances to his name. Still aged just 26, he was unfortunate not to make England’s final 26-man squad for Euro 2020 but has since registered his 9th cap and second goal for his country against Andorra. Renowned for his deadball prowess, Ward-Prowse racked up 8 goals and 7 assists during the 20/21 season including a stunning array of free kicks.

Ward-Prowse would be an instant upgrade for our midfield. We struggle to maintain possession, control games and play through the lines, all of which the Soton man excels at. Allied to that he is a leader and  would raise standards in the squad given he is a consistent and reliable performer (the opposite of a certain Jonjo Shelvey). Coupled with his drive to establish himself on the international scene and his current club’s fluctuating fortunes having seen notable big players leave, a move to Tyneside, with the prospect of pushing for European football in the short-term, could be the fresh challenge Ward-Prowse is looking for.

Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)

The mercurial winger has already had one spell away from Selhurst Park but his move to Manchester United didn’t turn out how he would have liked having signed for the club under Sir Alex Ferguson but ending up playing under David Moyes. Having returned to South London, Zaha has cemented his place as a legend of the club and as a top-class attacking threat in the Premier League.

The Ivory Coast international has been linked with a move away from Palace in seemingly every transfer window since rejoining the club, so it’s surprising he is still there. The seeming reticence of the big boys to take a chance on the winger and the rumoured price tag put on him by his club explain it to a point, but there is no doubt that the player is ready for a new challenge, with quotes attributed to him every summer about seeking a fresh start elsewhere. Zaha would be the perfect player to excite the Toon fanbase with his array of skills, tricks and flicks, and the thought of him in the same team as Allan Saint-Maximin would have opposing coaches reaching for the aspirin.

Lewis Dunk (Brighton)

A towering and dominant centre-half, Dunk has excelled at the heart of a back three for the Seagulls under both Chris Hughton and more recently Graham Potter. Born in Brighton, he has registered 150 appearances since promotion to the Premier League and has demonstrated his resilience and fitness by making a minimum of 33 appearances in the four full seasons he’s played at the top level. Dunk is a one-cap England international who will be looking to boost his credentials for further recognition, with that solitary appearance coming back in 2018.

Given our defensive travails this season, with our usually reliable group of centre-backs starting to look extremely suspect, strengthening this part of the team (and the spine overall) should be seen as a priority for the new owners. Dunk also captains his boyhood team, and whilst their start to the season has been seriously impressive, a move to a club of Newcastle’s stature at the age of 29 would surely appeal (particularly if Potter was installed in the dugout at St James Park).

Kalvin Phillips (Leeds)

A key part of Leeds United’s resurgence under Marcelo Bielsa, 25-year-old Phillips uses a terrific mix of aggression and artistry to run games from the pivot position at the base of midfield. He turned in a stellar first campaign in the Premier League before starring in England’s run to the Euro 2020 final, where he formed a formidable midfield pairing with West Ham’s Declan Rice.

Although Isaac Hayden is an admirable professional and has exhibited an exemplary attitude during his spell with the club, we’re now looking to improve every facet of the club, and Phillips is a clear upgrade in the midfield general role. Similar to both Ward-Prowse and Dunk, Phillips is at his boyhood club so could be loath to leave Elland Road, but the prospect of competing for trophies and playing in Europe, whilst also staying in the north, may pique his interest.

James Tarkowski (Burnley)

Tarkowski is in an almost identical situation to Lewis Dunk in terms of his career. A stalwart at his current club, proven in the Premier League and a brief international career of two caps, the 28-year-old centre half is regularly linked with a move to bigger clubs without having seen a transfer materialize. Indeed, he has been one of the names most strongly linked with Newcastle in the days since the takeover.

A no-nonsense defender who has developed into a dominant presence under Sean Dyche’s management, Tarkowski will be looking to be force his way into Gareth Southgate’s plans for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. A move to an upwardly mobile Newcastle side, that you would imagine will look to play in a style closer to England than Burnley once the Sporting Director and Manager roles are filled, could be just the opportunity Tarkowski needs to showcase another side to his game.

Ivan Toney (Brentford)

The one that got away. Whilst Rafa Benitez made very few missteps during his time in charge of the club, selling Toney would now appear to be a major one given the way the striker has risen through the leagues with ruthless determination. First at Peterborough and more recently at Brentford under Thomas Frank, Toney has been utterly prolific, recording the highest number of goals in a single Championship season as the Bees were promoted to the top-flight.

He has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, using a blend of pace, power, movement, and intelligence to make an instant mark on centre halves across the league, registering two goals and two assists in seven appearances. Brentford’s model is buy, develop and sell, and whilst their promotion to the Premier League means they’re in a brilliant position to negotiate from, Toney has his price. Most importantly, the frontman may feel there is unfinished business at Newcastle given his lack of opportunities in his first spell at the club, and joining the revolution under the new owners could be a big motivator.

Craig Shaw @shawzey15