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Newcastle: Gayle sets goal target; Benitez praises Ritchie; loanee making a name for himself

Dwight Gayle has been talking about his goal-scoring form and set himself a target of 20 league goals this season. After only a limited role at Crystal Palace, the striker is enjoying his new lease of life at St James’ Park and looks to be a key figure in this new-look Newcastle side. He has emerged as the team’s first choice striker ahead of Aleksandar Mitrovic and is likely to start tonight against Barnsley.

“Twenty is where you start as a striker and I just want to be winning games for the team. The main thing for me is not even goals, I just want to get promoted and get back up to the Premier League with the club.

“But yes, 20 is a good marker personally. We need to score goals to get promoted and I’m happy to help out but we’ve got other great players in there as well.

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“Jonjo will help me. He has been fantastic every week. He’s always looking for me and he’s got a fantastic range of passes.

This shows Gayle’s personal ambition, but he could be set to score even more than 20, as he already has nine league goals to his name and it is only October. He is correct to praise Jonjo Shelvey as the midfielder has been superb and is making Gayle’s job of putting the ball into the new even easier with excellent service. I’d expect the striker to score more than 25 this season and fire his side to promotion.

Rafa Benitez has praised Matt Ritchie over the last 24 hours and stated that he is an example of the type of player that he wants to see in the black of white of Newcastle. That is high praise indeed and will boost Ritchie’s confidence significantly. The Scottish international was criticised for dropping a division to join Newcastle, but he will be a key player in Benitez’s side and will return to the Premier League a much better player, whether that is with Newcastle or another side. When asked if Ritchie is the type of character that he wants in his squad, Benitez said:

“Yeah I think so. He’s a great example for the others in terms of his attitude in the way he approaches every training session and every game.”

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The winger is likely to return to the starting eleven against Barnsley after missing the weekend through injury. He is a great player to have in the team away from home as he works hard and protects his full back. Ritchie has yet to find his goal-scoring form since joining Newcastle, but I’d expect that to improve over the coming weeks.

Alex Gilliead is out on loan at Luton Town and he has been praised after his appearance at the weekend for the League Two side. The Luton boss, Nathan Jones, believes that the winger will go on to play in the Premier League, which is positive for Newcastle. The Magpies haven’t managed to have a great deal of success with youth development, but Gilliead could be one that has a part to play in the future.

“I know what he has because I have watched him since he was 16, 17 years of age, I’ve always had an eye on him.

“He is a thoroughbred and I genuinely believe he will become a Premier League player.

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“What we have to do and what we have missed out on because we didn’t have him in pre-season, he’s missed out on a lot of the structural stuff that we do.

This is a crucial loan spell for Gilliead as he is approaching the age of 21 and will want to begin making an impact at Newcastle in the coming years. He starred for Carlisle last season and will want to contribute even more at Luton. It is a huge task for him to break into the Newcastle squad, but he is one for supporters to follow.

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