There’s an air of optimism floating around St James’ Park this summer – and to be honest, it’s quite unnerving.
Since Mike Ashley’s arrival on Tyneside 2007, it’s become something of a Toon Army tradition to spend the weeks leading up to the new campaign moaning about Newcastle’s owner and their summer dealings (or ‘lack of’, to be precise).
Now, the grumbling about Ashley hasn’t disappeared (that’s almost as synonymous with the Magpies as their black and white stripes by this point), but the club’s summer transfer business has been met with unbridled positivity. But are the Geordie faithful right to be so buoyant?
The arrival of Jamal Lewis has plugged the gap left by Tottenham loanee Danny Rose, with Newcastle seemingly unable to agree a permanent deal for the England international – despite Steve Bruce openly confessing his desire to sign the Spurs man.
Lewis was rumoured to be on the radar of a whole host of Premier League clubs, with champions Liverpool one of those said to have lodged an interest.
However, while the youngster excelled in Norwich’s 2018/19 promotion winning campaign, the 22-year-old struggled to adapt to the demands of England’s top flight last season, with right-back Sam Byram preferred at left-back for large spells of the season.
The free signing of former Burnley man Jeff Hendrick is a useful if not inspiring addition, however, the club’s acquisition of Bournemouth pairing Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson has undoubtedly brought about the majority of the positivity circling St James’ Park.
While the two players had a key role in the Cherries establishing themselves as Premier League regulars following their promotion in 2014/15, their drop-off in form last season – along with a whole host of their fellow Bournemouth stalwarts - smacked of individuals who had become too comfortable with life in the top tier.
Eddie Howe’s transfer business has rightly been singled out as a huge factor in the club’s demise, with big-money signings such as Jordon Ibe, Jefferson Lerma and Dominic Solanke failing to produce the performances their lofty price tags commanded.
However, the former Bournemouth boss retained the core of the side which had seen them promoted – a team Wilson and Fraser were a part of – yet with bumper deals and international recognition under their belts, the Cherries squad looked far removed from the hungry, ambitious side that had defied the odds so often in the past.
While a move to the Magpies represents a fresh start for the pair, it’s difficult to envisage how moving to a club like Newcastle with their huge stadium, lofty ambitions (whether ill-placed or not) and at times delusions of grandeur is going to reinvigorate Wilson and Fraser to return to their previous best. Steve Bruce has got to get them clicking and firing.
The Magpies' transfer business on the whole has been relatively astute in recent years, with the majority of their bigger purchases like Miguel Almirón and Allan Saint-Maximin beginning to flourish on Tyneside (let’s just pretend Joelinton never happened for a second).
However, many of their standout performers in the relatively successful 2019/20 season were those who'd been at the club when they dropped down to the Championship, like Jonjo Shelvey and Jamaal Lascelles. Players with a point to prove and with fire in their belly.
If Wilson and Fraser arrive on Tyneside with the same mentality which saw them rise through the divisions with Bournemouth, then Newcastle fans have every right to be optimistic for the season ahead. However, if last season’s failure is anything to go by, their new men should be approached with a lot of caution.
Source : 90min