An interesting season awaits for Newcastle United following the appointment of Steve McClaren as manager, replacing the hapless John Carver.
Any squad that only manages to escape relegation on the final day of the season is one that is clearly in desperate need of strengthening, yet with club owner Mike Ashley seemingly more interested in lining his own coffers rather than oversee improvements in the team, another disappointing summer for the Toon Army is still very much within the realms of possibility.
Ashley has, however, promised funding for the new boss in the transfer market. Providing he sticks to his words, which players should the Magpies target?
The QPR striker had a hugely successful campaign despite the Rs succumbing to relegation, scoring an impressive 18 Premier League goals. Austin is clearly too good to be playing Championship football next season and it would come as a great surprise if he is not lining up for a top flight side come August.
Still only 25, he would provide some much-needed quality and goalscoring ability to a Newcastle frontline that is crying out for a prolific hitman – Papiss Demba Cisse was the Magpies’ top scorer last season with just 11 goals.
Austin recently tweeted that no-one would be able to beat Newcastle club legend Alan Shearer’s all-time Premier League goals total of 260, to which Shearer replied by saying that he should make the move north and give it a go.
Should Austin take up the challenge, it would certainly generate a lot of excitement on Tyneside.
Regarded as one of England’s brightest young talents, Will Hughes played under McClaren during the Newcastle manager’s time in charge at Pride Park last season.
Instantly recognisable on the pitch due to his peroxide-blonde hair, Hughes is a technically skilful player who said that he bases his play on Barcelona midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
With Newcastle’s midfield a particularly weak area of the team – question marks remain over Cheick Tiote’s commitment, while Vurnon Anita has failed to light up St James’s Park – Hughes could slot in alongside Jack Colback to form a dynamic central midfield partnership.
The 20-year-old may feel it is time for him to make the step up and prove himself in the Premier League. Working under his former boss at Newcastle could give him the opportunity to do so.
During the first half of the 2011/12 campaign, Demba Ba was one of the hottest strikers in the Premier League as Newcastle confounded all expectations by challenging for the top four.
While the arrival of Papiss Demba Cisse in January of that season saw the goals dry up somewhat as the new signing took over goalscoring responsibilities, the Senegalese duo nevertheless formed a highly successful partnership as the Magpies finished in a highly commendable fifth place.
Should Newcastle fail in their efforts to bring Charlie Austin to the club, they would be wise to consider Ba, who is currently at Turkish side Besiktas.
The prospect of a revival of the Ba-Cisse partnership is an exciting one, and may bring out the best in Cisse, who has not looked the same player since his compatriot left St James’s Park for Chelsea in 2013.
Only QPR conceded more goals in the Premier League last season than Newcastle.
The Magpies defence needs an almighty shake-up, and while the club is never going to be able to attract a world-class defender who will transform their fortunes overnight, there are plenty of cheap and effective options on the market who could do a good job of improving the backline.
Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar has been tipped to leave the club this summer with his contract running out; strong, disciplined and authoritative, the Dutchman could form an experienced centre-back pairing with Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini, while also knocking some sense into the club’s under-performers.
There is also a glaring lack of quality out wide in Newcastle’s squad. Gabriel Obertan is, quite frankly, useless, Sammy Ameobi is too raw and inexperienced, while Yoan Gouffran is far too inconsistent.
The Magpies need a proven Premier League winger with enough skill, pace and trickery to prove a threat on the flanks. Step up Aaron Lennon; the England international is seemingly surplus to requirements at current club Tottenham Hotspur, and a move to St James’s Park would at least offer him guaranteed first-team football.
However with Everton also interested, Newcastle would need to pull out all the stops to secure his signature.