It’s going to be another testing season for Newcastle United supporters, and this time around they’re going to have to actually watch the malaise! The fans’ return to St James’ Park will be a reminder for anyone who has forgotten just how turbulent life can be as part of Mike Ashley’s regime.
With a severe lack of investment in the squad, manager Steve Bruce did excellently to ensure the club avoided relegation last season and eventually finish as high as 12th. But once more there has been a neglect shown to the transfer needs, and for anything other than déjà vu to be considered as the best Newcastle can hope for there needs to be a significant change in approach from the top, and quick. Otherwise, an increased chasm between club and fans is inevitable.
With the squad as thin as it is, and departures in the summer accounting for the likes of Andy Carroll and Florian Lejeune, the squad will be short of anything approaching depth. When a fresh pair of legs is needed in games, Bruce is going to find himself at a severe disadvantage compared to almost every Premier League counterpart.
The Magpies will be hoping for a glimmer of hope in the potential return of last season’s impressive loanee Joe Willock from Arsenal. The midfielder became a fast fan-favourite in 2020-21 when scoring eight league goals in 14 appearances, and Bruce will be praying that a deal can be struck to bring the youngster back as he looks to reduce the goalscoring burden on the shoulders of Callum Wilson, who has been prone to injury during his career. The 29-year-old finished as the club’s top goalscorer last year with 12 league goals in 26 appearances, and his impressive debut campaign has earned him the famous number nine shirt for this season.
There will be more unrest among the Toon supporters if the reports of Bruce being handed a new three-year contract are credible. One of the biggest issues the supporters have had during the 60-year-old’s reign is the unattractive, risk-free football that he is setting his side up to play. While his methods have so far proved effective, the fans understandably don’t enjoy his style. If Newcastle start the season poorly, the crowd will be quick to make their discontent known to the manager and to Ashley, increasing the radius of the giant black cloud that has engulfed St James’ Park for far too many years in recent times.
This season is set to be another tough slog for a club that is effectively set up to absorb occasional relegations rather than to be a potential European challenger. It has been common knowledge for years that Ashley is reluctant to put any more finances into the club as he looks to sell up, and without those much-needed funds to compete at this level, Newcastle can only hope that come the end of the season that they are still branded a Premier League club.
It’s an underwhelming target, but right now it’s about the best they can hope for.