Barring any major hiccups, Newcastle United will secure promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt within the next few weeks. It will be a great achievement to do so without any real concerns over the campaign, but it will only be the first part of Chris Hughton’s aim to get the Magpies back established in the top flight. To have a chance of doing this they will not need a major overhaul, but a couple of quality additions. And the most pressing concern will be to inject some real class up front.
Any team coming up from the Championship will want to strengthen all over the pitch if possible but Newcastle do have a lot of quality already in their ranks and I believe with one or two skilled strikers they would have the ingredients to stay up. In defence they have the likes of Jose Enrique and Fabricio Coloccini and their midfield is bursting with Premier League experience. Players such as Kevin Nolan – while not everyone’s cup of tea – will be able to handle the step up and Jonas Gutierrez has international pedigree. Wayne Routledge has not fulfilled his potential in the top flight yet, but I do get the feeling he will do under Hughton’s guidance.
But in the forward positions I don’t see enough true Premier League quality. It will be vital for the Toon to add more goal threat if they are to avoid getting sucked back into the bottom three positions next season. Not only that but they need someone with the ability to hold the ball up and allow the midfielders to join them. Newcastle will not have the luxury of dominating teams like they have this year and will need an outlet to relieve the pressure when they get the ball off sides with more quality than them. For promoted sides it is so important to have the ability to hold the ball further up the pitch allowing the more defensive players to re-organise.
Last summer, the promoted trio of Birmingham, Burnley and Wolves were all prepared to break their transfer records in order to purchase Christian Benitez, Steven Fletcher and Kevin Doyle – although the Benitez deal was later restructured due to medical complications – and all three have had significant impacts on their respective clubs in their attempts to stay up this season. This demonstrates how important managers see the recruitment of at least one effective front man. Hughton will need to do similar if he is to give his side the best possible chance of staying up. Like Birmingham, most of the Magpies players have played at Premier League level and they will be hoping for a similar first season back as the Blues have had this year.
Andy Carroll grabbed another goal in United’s win at Doncaster on Tuesday night and the youngster has certainly impressed in the Championship. Peter Lovenkrands has also had a decent year when he’s been available. But I can’t see them causing Premier League defences too many problems and believe Hughton’s definite priority in the transfer market over the coming months should be the acquisition of a forward to give his strike force another dimension as he continues with the fine job he is doing in the North East.