Wednesday is Newcastle United Q & A day and today it was the turn of Football Publishing Editor Mark Douglas to answer reader questions.
With the January transfer window approaching, that was a big topic of conversation but there were also queries on takeover reporting and expectations for the second half of the season. Here is a full transcript.
Why are NUFC turning their noses up at a £20m for Bowen (the Championship’s best player at 22) yet pay £40m for Joelinton?
I know there’s a lot being said about his deal ‘expiring’ in summer, but isn’t it common knowledge that Hull have an option to extend it? £20m (is) a bargain!
I’m not sure Newcastle are turning their nose up at Bowen. He remains a target and a few of the reports about his future feel flimsy to me: the claim that Leicester could take him for £10million on Sunday was wishful thinking. The word from the Hull end is that the bidding starts at £20million – and they’d likely turn that down as well.
Given United paid the best part of that for Miguel Almiron, I think they’d stump up the money – but I’m not sure, given the way the club operates with it’s supposed “every penny earned” philosophy, they’ll necessarily have access to those sort of funds in January, which is why a summer move feels more likely.
Steve Bruce’s previous with Hull’s owners is another complication to consider, along with Spurs and Leicester having an interest. But the player would certainly welcome the move and he’s good enough to make an immediate impact. Newcastle still regret not getting involved in the James Maddison race a few years ago so will that have an impact?
Remember in the summer when Mike Ashley said he’d look on Bruce’s request favourably and would try to help him out in the market? Here’s the first chance to really put that into practice.
With Saint-Maximin out and the other attacking injuries is it not time for Lejeune to come into the back three with Schar and Fernandez to give us a platform to build from the back?
United have been careful with Florian Lejeune but there’s a real argument for the defender to return on Saturday. If not then, when?
Lejeune’s the best of Newcastle’s centre-backs when it comes to distribution and he’s been patient enough – although your proposed XI would be harsh on Paul Dummett , who hasn’t done too much wrong.
What’s certain is that Newcastle need to do something different without Allan Saint-Maximin, who has been the added dimension for United this season. This is a sizeable test of Steve Bruce as Newcastle’s run of winnable games collides with a string of tougher games after Saturday.
Do you believe there are any actual targets for January (loans signings, bargain bin etc)?
Steve Nickson has been involved in a number of meetings with Steve Bruce and Lee Charnley since the middle of August so I’m pretty sure they’ve gamed possibilities for January – and all parties know they’ve still got loans available if they need them.
To the frustration of Bruce’s predecessor, Newcastle don’t have a set budget which the Head Coach can spend. They work, instead, on a case by case basis but Bruce seems happy enough with that.
In an ideal world Bruce would strengthen and a personal feeling is that bringing players in from a position of strength is what clubs committed to kicking on do.
But it feels to me as if Newcastle’s focus is on the summer and what further additions they can make to the squad then. That feels like the priority; it feels like that is where the resource will go and January is more likely to be dependent on outgoings.
If the club, say, sell Dwight Gayle or find takers for some of their fringe men then there could be incomings. But it feels different to 12 months ago when Rafa Benitez was imploring the club to act and aside from loans, I don’t envisage a huge amount of spectacular deals.
We reach the halfway point of the season on Boxing Day; given we are currently sitting on 22 points, what’s your prediction for the second half of the season (points total/FA Cup etc)?
I think there’s a sticky patch in this team and I’m not expecting a clear run at 40 points. Things could yet get hairy if Newcastle don’t fathom a way to play without Allan Saint-Maximin , or to get more out of a misfiring group of strikers.
But I believe they’ll be safe in the end and getting 18 points between now and the end of the season is a very achievable aim (even if I’m not expecting United to finish as strongly as they did under Rafa Benitez, whose whole plan for the season was built around ending with a flourish).
I think – I hope – they’ll take the FA Cup more seriously but injuries over Christmas might have an impact on the starting XI. I would absolutely love to see United go deep in the competition this season and Rochdale will suit them better than Boston might have. Bruce dare not lose that one.
After that, it depends on the draw but Newcastle simply have to approach the Cup as if it’s as important as the Premier League this term.
Which of the out of contract players do you think will be offered a new one?
Of the players whose deals are expiring in 2020, I think Andy Carroll will get offered something at the end of the season. Federico Fernandez hasn’t had meaningful talks yet but I think there’s a willingness there to do something if he accepts a short-term deal (he might not and follow Mo Diame’s lead ).
Javier Manquillo is playing well enough to merit consideration but I think Newcastle are pretty committed to an overhaul this season so I doubt there’ll be a serious contract offer on the table.
Matty Longstaff will stay I think (more later), but Jack Colback and Ki will both leave. There’s going to be a lot of upheaval in the next 18 months as Newcastle get the chance to press the reset button on this squad.
What’s happening with Matty Longstaff, should we start to get worried?
When the stories first broke five or six weeks ago that he’d signed a new deal, we were counselled to be cautious as there was still work to do.
I think something will be signed as Longstaff wants to stay but his representatives, quite rightly, are pushing for the best deal they can get after he made his Premier League debut. At the moment the two sides still have to move to get an agreement but there’s a willingness to do it so I’m still confident it’ll be done.
Come January, he can negotiate with clubs in Europe to leave on a free (although there would be compensation to pay given his age).
Is there any news on Sean Longstaff’s new contract? Seems to have gone quiet since October?
Nothing at all on this one and I’m not expecting anything imminent. He’s tied up to a long-term deal and although there’s been talk of another contract, I don’t think it’s a priority for Newcastle at the moment.
Longstaff’s form this season has been up and down, so he’ll be keen to concentrate on getting back on track after a challenging few months. Newcastle should return to the table after that. After all, he is a £20million-rated player these days.
Q: Why is the paper continuing to run with yet more takeover stories in the build up to a January transfer window? Will you still be doing the same thing next year when the as yet unmentioned Chinese interest is mooted?
A couple of people have asked this one so I think it’s right to address the misunderstanding and frustration around takeover stories.
On Monday, GACP Sports sold their minority stake in Bordeaux . It was a thing that happened – not speculation, not opinion, an actual fact – and the fact that they have had an interest in Newcastle (as confirmed by the infamous brochure) makes it a story in much the same way that we run stories on other individuals with a Newcastle connection (which we do because there’s interest in them from Newcastle fans which we, in turn, know from audience data).
I knew this was happening – just as I’ve been told through contacts that they continue to insist they have a “live” interest in taking over Newcastle. Make of that what you will but it’s a story, it’s not spin for the club or timed to coincide with the January transfer window (why would that make any sense anyway? Newcastle have been playing down January for weeks anyway).
As a wider point, for all the tiresome Twitter chat whenever we write about the club’s ownership changing, there is obviously interest in it as they’re usually the most well-read stories of the day. That said, we’ll only run something when there’s a snippet of information to share.
I understand some might not like that and there’s cynicism out there but the club is on the market and has its suitors so it remains a live issue. I’m hearing little bits and pieces all the time: most of it I filter out but when, for example, another publication writes about Newcastle potentially being taken over we have a duty to report what we know about that report ( as was the case with the Orlegi Group ).
If there’s fresh speculation next year, we’ll judge it on its merits. With the GACP Capital story, for example, we weren’t exactly playing up the potential for it to happen soon.
I see the frustation out there in Twitter land but I’ve long since stopped thinking the angrier accounts are representative of what everyone thinks. Sorry to say but there are one or two people out there who have got abusive who have been blocked or muted and are shouting into a void. No-one makes you read or engage with what our writers have to say: criticism or opinion is fine but try to keep it civil....