Not too long ago, watching Newcastle play felt boring and unexciting. Yet the reality now is that football fans would rather watch them play every weekend than have nothing to watch at all.
This necessary break from the game has conversely given us time to pause and reflect on how the season has gone for various teams.
So with that, let's look at it all - how it's gone, how it could go when it all starts up again, and what the long-term future might hold for Newcastle.
As It Stands
Before the season's suspension, Newcastle were in good form, going unbeaten in their last three games. They have only lost three matches in 2020, with fewer defeats than teams likes Leicester and Tottenham.
Undoubtedly one of their best victories was at home against Chelsea in January. Since then, they've missed opportunities to move higher up the table with goalless draws against Burnley and Norwich at St James' Park. Needing replays to beat both Rochdale and Oxford United in the FA Cup also felt very underwhelming.
Despite this, a late Allan Saint-Maximin winner at Southampton means the Magpies currently sit in 13th place, eight points clear of the relegation zone. With five of their remaining nine games coming against bottom-half teams, they have a favourable run-in and should be expected to remain clear of the relegation zone.
They also are still in the FA Cup - yet a home quarter-final against Manchester City may prove too difficult an obstacle to overcome.
Injury Status & Potential Returns
Key to Newcastle's survival hopes is goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka, who could be back from his knee injury by the end of April - the time the season is slated to resume. The Slovakia international has often saved the team from defeat and would help the Magpies tremendously.
Other players who could return for the Tyneside club are Emil Krafth, Jack Colback and fan-favourite Andy Carroll. All three are expected to be available by the time the Premier League returns.
Unfortunately, it will be too soon for defenders Paul Dummett, Jetro Willems and Ciaran Clark, as all three will be sidelined beyond May and won't be available to play at all.
Remaining Fixtures & Season Projection
Despite the Premier League now setting April 30 as the new date for resuming the season, it still seems very unlikely that we'll be watching football by then. But if and when it does recommence, Newcastle have nine league games to play, as well as their FA Cup quarter-final.
Their remaining league games are listed below. We'll throw in a result prediction and a projection on what position they'll finish in for fun, too.
|Sheffield United (H)||Draw|
|Aston Villa (H)||Win|
|West Ham (H)||Draw|
|Man City (A)||Lose|
Total Points Prediction: 45
Predicted Finish: 13th
The six-point buffer Newcastle have between themselves and the bottom six will likely be enough to ensure another Premier League season - whenever that gets played.
They should pick up two wins against struggling teams in Villa and Bournemouth, and could potentially beat West Ham, Watford and Brighton too - yet their inconsistency makes it's hard to believe they'll string together a winning run.
As for the FA Cup, it's hard to make any predictions, especially if the tournament is reformatted or potentially cancelled. That being said, they'll likely lose to City.
Provided they take advantage of their favourable run, the Magpies should retain top-flight status comfortably for the following campaign.
Player Contract Status
Seven Newcastle players are coming to the end of their deals on 30 June - with the main priority for Bruce being to persuade youngster Matty Longstaff to stay.
The 20-year-old has broken out this season and the Magpies will be desperate not to let the home-grown midfielder walk for free. Yet he could depart with numerous clubs interested in signing him.
Other players who have expiring contracts include the injured duo of Carroll and Colback, as well as defenders Javier Manquillo and Jamie Sterry. Of the quartet, Manquillo looks the most likely to stay, with Bruce keen to offer him a new deal. Back-up goalkeepers Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow also are set to become free agents this summer.
Summer Transfer Plans
One name linked with the Magpies recently has been Phil Jones - with Bruce interested in bringing over the experienced defender to Tyneside.
With injuries to Clark and Dummett, Jones could be a boost to the Magpies' current defensive stocks. And he wouldn't be the only defensive arrival - Danny Rose and Valentino Lazaro could both be signed permanently by Bruce in the summer following their respective loan spells.
Besides strengthening defence, Bruce has been keen to add a striker, with Crystal Palace's loaned-out forward Alexander Sorloth rumoured to be a target. 90min have also exclusively reported that teenage forward Myron Boadu is on the Magpies' radar.
A midfielder is on the shopping list too, and that void could be filled by star Braga midfielder Ricardo Horta - a player the Tynesiders are keeping an eye on.
Long Term Targets
What are Newcastle trying to achieve? Staying afloat in the aimless mid-table positions, or pushing on for a top-half finish?
These are the questions fans want answers to - and only owner Mike Ashley can answer them. This club should be competing with the likes of Wolves and Sheffield United, and instead they find themselves in endless relegation scraps every top-flight season.
Investment is sorely needed to improve the team's quality. Yet this demand must be taken more seriously than before. With fellow bottom-half teams Brighton and Southampton spending big to move themselves higher, Newcastle cannot afford to stand still.
Until then, the Magpies will be consigned to looking back in fear of relegation and not looking upwards to chase success like the teams of the past once did. Your move, Mr Ashley...
Source : 90min