Last season it took until November 3rd for either of Newcastle United’s first choice strikers Ayoze Perez or Salomon Rondon to get off the mark. By that time Dwight Gayle had scored eight though admittedly in the Championship.
This disparity was particularly pertinent of course because earlier that summer Rafa Benitez had decided to – temporarily at least – dispense with Gayle’s services opting to send the 28-year-old to West Brom for the season and bring in the Baggies’ Rondon in an unusual loan swap deal. By the autumn surely he was regretting this. The guy he let go was firing in goals for fun. The guy he brought in was misfiring on a weekly basis.
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Fast forward to the present day and though Benitez has now departed the Magpies seem intent on repeating their mistake, that of under-valuing the prolific nature of a striker they have under contract, and all while being in desperate need of fire-power.
Meanwhile, due to the recent £30m sale of Perez to Leicester and the ending of Rondon’s loan – not to mention a reunion with Benitez in China – this has left Newcastle extremely light in their striking department. At the recent Asia Trophy they used peripheral personnel in the form of Yoshinori Muto and the previously untried teen Elias Sorensen and this despite Gayle – a proven goal-scorer – being part of the travelling party. Since then of course they have signed Joelinton from Hoffenheim but nobody should be under any illusions to what extent this fixes matters for the North-East giants. They still remain woefully short of options up front.
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And yet, they’re not. Not really. In their ranks they possess a player who scored 23 goals in Newcastle’s promotion-winning season of 2016/17 – becoming the first forward at St James’ Park since Alan Shearer to bag 20+ in a campaign – and though admittedly the Walthamstow-born hit man then only notched six in 23 starts in the top flight prior to being loaned out he still undoubtedly has qualities much needed at his present employer. He has experience. He knows where the goal is. His movement is sharp and shrewd and troubles defenders.
So why then is he once again finding himself surplus to requirements? If the distrust from Benitez can perhaps be attributed to Gayle’s drop in prolificacy once Newcastle reached the promised land – it can be guessed that Gayle was viewed as one of those players who thrives in the Championship but struggles at the highest grade – that isn’t applicable anymore with the Spaniard’s departure.
It’s all very odd. Newcastle United desperately need a striker who can fire precious, priceless goals for them in what could be a gruelling season. They have one. But they don’t want him.