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Three lessons learnt from Newcastle United’s Championship title winning campaign

Jake Jackman



Newcastle United have returned to the Premier League at the first attempt and there is a good feeling on Tyneside once again.

The man responsible for that is Rafa Benitez.

It was a shock that the Champions League winning manager chose to take over at St. James’ Park at the back-end of last season and that was trumped when he decided to stay on after relegation.

However, the Spaniard saw the potential in the club and he has overseen an impressive rebuilding job in the North East.

The Championship is a tough league and the Magpies’ achievements this season shouldn’t be downplayed. Off the pitch, the club have reconnected with their fan-base and everyone is pulling in the same direction.

This campaign has been an exciting one for all involved and winning the title on the final day was well deserved.

Here are three things that we have learnt from Newcastle’s season…

Rafa Benitez remains a world class manager

There has already been sections of the media that have downplayed his achievements as he has only done what was expected of him, but that is unfair on the Spaniard.

It was a brave decision to stay at Newcastle and manage in the second tier, as the division is different from the Premier League.

There is a more physical style and every team plays eight more matches. It is an exhausting and unforgiving league, but Benitez tackled it professionally and deserved to finish the season as a champion.

After staying on as manager, the former Real Madrid boss worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure he was prepared for the challenge ahead. He educated himself about the Championship and drew up the perfect game plan to tackle the division.

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The Championship is nowhere near as prestigious as the Champions League, but this title will still be extremely pleasing for Benitez. He showed that he could adapt to his new environment and come out as a champion.

To put his achievements into context, Aston Villa spent more money than Newcastle but failed to finish in the top half. Meanwhile, the other relegated side, Norwich City, struggled to compete at the top of the league.

The Championship is better than ever and it isn’t easy to bounce back at the first attempt. Newcastle may have been the pre-season favourites, but they were a broken club after relegation. They lost their first two matches of the league and didn’t immediately have the aura of potential champions.

Benitez transformed them into that, and for that reason, he has proven he remains an excellent manager.

There can be value in signing players over 30

Mike Ashley has been stubborn since buying Newcastle and has implemented a transfer policy of signing no player over the age of 27.

The businessman wanted his club to buy players that had a sell-on value, and there is sense in that, especially as the Magpies don’t have the financial power of the top six clubs in the Premier League.

They enjoyed success with the policy at times and recouped profits on Moussa Sissoko, Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Debuchy and Gini Wijnaldum. However, the Magpies became a stepping stone club and that resulted in their relegation.

The players didn’t have the motivation to perform consistently, preferring to play their best when they were against the top six clubs. Last season, they were the only team to beat Tottenham twice, but they also failed to beat Aston Villa twice.

Benitez made it clear that Newcastle wouldn’t be a stepping stone anymore and the change of transfer policy was a big reason for their success this season.

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The Newcastle boss was given free reign during the summer and he bought a few players that wouldn’t have been considered by the club under the previous regime.

His big success story was Daryl Murphy. The Irishman was 33 when he was signed and he came into an underwhelming reaction. However, Benitez had a purpose for him and he became an important figure as the season progressed.

He scored five league goals and played a vital role in the away wins at Brighton and Huddersfield. They were two of the biggest wins of Newcastle’s season and they may not have been possible without the Irish international.

He may not be at the club next season, but his goals and experience for the Championship season have more than repaid his transfer fee.

Jonjo Shelvey is revitalised and ready to challenge for an England recall

One huge positive to emerge from Newcastle’s season in the Championship has been the rebirth of Jonjo Shelvey.

He has played the majority of his career in the top flight and it would have been easy to lose interest in the second tier. However, he has used this season as an opportunity to find his confidence and consistency in the middle of the park.

The 25-year-old was dropped by Benitez at the end of the previous campaign and many thought his days were numbered under the Spaniard. Shelvey didn’t share those thoughts and came back to training in the best shape of his career.

Although he started the season as a substitute at Fulham, it wasn’t long until he broke into the first team and emerged as one of the most important players in the team.

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There have been a few moments of controversy, including his suspension for an alleged racist outburst, something that he and Newcastle still claim innocence for. However, it is clear that he is focused on his football and he will return to the Premier League as a better player.

He is at the right club for him, as the supporters adore him and the manager will continue to make him a better player.

The midfielder contributed five goals and eight assists over the course of the campaign. He will believe that he can reproduce those numbers in the Premier League.

This has been the first step of his revival, but if he commits himself in the same way next season, it won’t be long until he is knocking on the door for an England recall.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Fulham FC

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

English Premier League

Paul Dummett’s Wales snub will please Newcastle United fans

The Welshman turned down an international call-up this week.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Paul Dummett has been one of the standout players for Newcastle United this season and his performances haven’t passed Ryan Giggs by.

The new Wales National Team manager has admitted that he has spoken to the left-back with a view to a return to the squad. The Chronicle reported the following quotes:

“I had a conversation with Paul Dummett, because he hasn’t been in the last few squads, and he just felt that it wasn’t the right time to come back.

“He wanted to concentrate on his Newcastle career which I have to respect, and we move on.

“He (Dummett) said that he wanted to concentrate on Newcastle’s relegation fight so I have to respect that at the moment. In the future we will wait and see.”

That will be music to the ears of Newcastle supporters and Rafa Benitez, as Dummett has emerged as a key player for the team since his return from injury.

This season in the Premier League, the Magpies have conceded only 13 times in the 12 matches that the 26-year-old has started.

(Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

That underlines how effective he has been and his importance to the team’s chances of staying in the top-flight.

Although he may not be the most exciting player to watch, Dummett is very good at carrying out a role for the team and it is no surprise that he has become one of Benitez’s most trusted lieutenants.

The Spanish manager enjoys to coach players that listen and carry out his instructions to the letter and his left-back certainly fits under that description.

A quick look at the stats shows how rounded Dummett is as a defender.

He averages 2.83 ball recoveries, 0.78 blocks and 6.85 clearances per ninety minutes. Meanwhile, he is very good in the air as shown by his aerial duels win rate of 57.41%.

He was once a scapegoat for Newcastle supporters and the focus of anger when things weren’t going well. The reason for that was his lack of technical skill, which would make him stand out on the pitch.

However, that side of his game has developed and he is now serviceable in possession. Dummett isn’t going to be cutting sides open with his attacking threat down the left, but he understands his own limitations and that has seen him improve as a player.

The 26-year-old has been part of Wales squads in the past, but he has only played once for his country and his lack of game-time may be a reason why he stepped away from the international arena.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Last summer, Newcastle issued a statement to explain why Dummett withdrew from the squad for the World Cup qualifier against Serbia, which featured the following quote:

“After a gruelling campaign with the Magpies, in which he played through the pain barrier on several occasions, 25-year-old Dummett is keen to recharge his batteries and spend time with his family and friends in order to ensure he is at peak form and fitness for his hometown team’s return to the Premier League and what promises to be a big campaign for both him and the club.

“He has been supported in his decision by Newcastle boss Rafa Benítez. 

“However, Dummett – who has represented his country from youth level all the way to the senior team – has not closed the door on his international career and hopes to represent the Dragons again in the future.”

It is clear that Newcastle is the priority for Dummett, but it is interesting that he refused to close the door on Wales last summer.

A managerial change since then may lead to further opportunities for the left-back and it is easy to see why Giggs has already reached out to him.

The Newcastle full-back has developed into a Premier League calibre player under Benitez and he will offer an upgrade on the options currently in the Wales squad.

For him, as a player, it may be beneficial to play international football and gain experience at the highest level. Although he didn’t agree to come back at this time, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t return to the fold in the near future. Both parties would benefit from that.

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Newcastle United

Newcastle United fans are livid at Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad

Newcastle fans cannot believe Jonjo Shelvey is not in the England squad.



Gareth Southgate announced his latest England squad earlier today and for Newcastle United fans it was not well received. Newcastle fans were left dumbfounded by the absence of Jonjo Shelvey and Jamaal Lascelles.

Both players have been in good form for Rafa Benitez’s side this season but obviously not enough to make the England team.

The main reason why Newcastle fans have been so frustrated at the omission of the pair revolves around the players who have actually been called up by Southgate.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

In particular, not many fans can understand how Jake Livermore gets the nod ahead of the Shelvey. Livermore has had a poor season with Premier League basement club West Brom and recently made headlines for the wrong reasons. He was one of several West Brom players reprimanded for stealing a taxi in Barcelona last month. Shelvey has outperformed the West Brom player throughout the campaign.

Southgate also gave debut call-ups to Burnley defender James Tarkowski and Swansea City centre-back Alfie Mawson. Their inclusion ahead of Newcastle captain also baffled many fans at St James’ Park. Whilst Tarkowski and Mawson have both had good seasons, it is hard to see how either has bettered Lascelles throughout the campaign.

Southgate has decided to experiment with that pair entering the fray, but for many, the Newcastle players were far more deserving.

(Photo by Matthew Ashton/Getty Images)

Such sentiment is not reserved for just Newcastle fans either, with the majority of fans believing both Newcastle players deserved a chance.

This was seemingly both players last chance to make the England squad for the World Cup in the summer.

Here is some of the best reaction to the news on Twitter…

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Newcastle United

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley must release funds to Kenedy this summer

The forward scored twice in the Magpie’s weekend victory over Southampton.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United took a huge step to safety this past weekend thanks to on-loan winger Kenedy who scored a brace against Southampton. The rest of the results at the bottom went for the Magpies and optimism about their chances increased significantly.

There will be nobody on Tyneside getting too complacent, not least Rafael Benitez, but the manager could be forgiven for having one eye on the summer.

It promises to be a crucial one for the club as it remains on the market, while there will be more rumours about the future of Benitez. There has been friction between the board and the manager in recent windows, which will come into focus again this summer.

Regardless of his desire to sell the club, Mike Ashley needs to appreciate the worth of his manager and make sure that his biggest asset remains at St James’ Park.

A quick way to do that this summer will be to sign Kenedy on a permanent deal from Chelsea. The Mirror report that the winger will be available for £15 million and that would be a great price for a player with his quality. He has immediately improved Newcastle since joining and provided some much-needed quality in the final third.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

During his first six matches, he has scored twice and got one assist. Considering Newcastle’s struggles in the final third throughout this season, Kenedy has provided end product that had previously been lacking. It is too soon to judge him fully, but he has come in and made an impact straight away in a team fighting relegation. That shows both talent and a good mentality.

The Magpies have been a working progress under Benitez this season. Their underlying numbers are good, but they have lacked the quality to produce the results required. Since Kenedy arrived, they have lost only one of their six Premier League matches and that came against an in-form Liverpool team.

As stated above, it is early days for the Brazilian at St James’ Park, but his attacking contributions have been impressive. The 22-year-old is currently averaging 1.02 chances created and 2.86 attempted shots per ninety minutes.

He hasn’t been perfect, with his decision making being questionable at times. However, he has stood out as one of the more talented players in the team and for that reason, he needs to be signed on a permanent deal.

Throughout his tenure as Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley has been reluctant to spend big money and his penny pinching has only got worse as his desire to sell has increased. Since promotion to the Premier League, the club has spent just under £40 million, which isn’t enough to compete with the majority of clubs in the top-flight.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

That needs to change as he needs to make sure Benitez doesn’t leave the club this summer, as it would derail any potential takeover. It is clear that the Newcastle manager would like to bring Kenedy to the club on a permanent basis and if Ashley can make that happen, it will go a long way to protecting his investment.

At the age of 22, there is potential for a big profit in the future, as Kenedy would surely develop on Tyneside under Benitez. The money in the modern game has become silly, but at £15 million, Kenedy would represent value.

He has already emerged as a key player for Newcastle and his importance will increase with game-time. This is a deal that Mike Ashley simply must make happen.

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