1. Mikel Merino has exceeded expectations
Initially a highly regarded loanee from Borussia Dortmund, super-Spaniard Mikel Merino has provided creativity and quality to the team beyond what was expected of him. He is a young player who has already won both the support of the Geordie faithful and the game against Crystal Palace earlier this season.
2. Mike Ashley may finally leave
Rumors of the club’s sale gained legitimacy with a bid from PCP Capital Partners. Ashley appears to be on his way out for good, which is music to the ears of most every Newcastle supporter. After years of drama and disappointment, new ownership looks to be taking over the club in due time.
3. Mitro & friends on the big stage this summer
Cult hero Aleksandar Mitrovic will be looking to replicate his form from the World Cup qualifying stage for his Serbian national team. Both Rob Elliot and Ciaran Clark will represent the Irish in Russia this summer. English Newcastle supporters have a stake in the tournament, but American Newcastle fans may resort to cheering for Ireland or Serbia because their beloved United States men’s national team— well, we know what happened.
4. Lascelles steps up
September was a Lascelles masterclass. Captain Jamaal Lascelles is not just a great leader now, he is a quality defender and a clutch performer as well. He justified Rafa’s decision to make him captain last season, but he has cemented his status as a Premier League caliber player this year by thwarting many attacks at the back end and scoring two game-winning goals.
Sunderland sit in 22nd place in the Sky Bet Championship table. This is a relegation spot in the second tier of English football. That’s really awful. Whenever Newcastle fans feel down in the dumps about a poor result or they remember that Mike Ashley isn’t gone yet, happiness can be found in the form of Sunderland suffering. The Black Cats are in no position to be promoted this season and it may be a while before the next Tyne-Wear derby as long as Newcastle take care of business in the Premier League.
6. Atsu and Merino loans made permanent
Two of the best players from this season are secured to four and five year contracts, respectively.
7. Larger transfer budget ahead
With the impending sale of the club, fans can expect more money to be allocated toward transfers. Targets of the prestige and price tag of Luke Shaw have been postulated.
8. Estranged players coming up big
Henri Saivet only just resurfaced in United’s lineup, but proved his doubters (everybody) wrong by helping his team get three Christmas points on the road last Saturday. Mohamed Diame may not have convinced supporters that he is valuable to the club, but he found the back of the net against West Ham in a crucial game. Last year, Yoan Gouffran worked his way into the starting eleven and delivered unprecedentedly strong performances. This year, Diame and Saivet can help their team greatly by replicating Gouffran’s role as an unexpectedly important asset.
9. Rafa Benitez is still here
There are always rumors about Benitez wanting to take a manager position elsewhere, but Rafa still walks the touchline at St James’. Disputes with Mike Ashley have made headlines and caused worry among the fans, regardless of whether there is truth to the matter, but Benitez has passed up opportunities to leave the club in favor of staying the boss on Tyneside. As long as Benitez is the manager of Newcastle United, one would think that they will remain in England’s top division.
10. SUNDERLAND AGAIN......