Newcastle fans have reasons to hope for the best
Newcastle didn't exactly receive a standing ovation from the Premier League. Many doubted their staying power. To date, they've proven doubters wrong.
After winning the Championship to secure an immediate return to the top flight, Toon have had an impressive start to their season, bagging ten points from their seven opening seven games. Going into October's international break, the Magpies sit ninth in the table. Here are four reasons Newcastle fans should remain confident of a solid finish in their first year back in the Prem.
Rafa Benitez stays on
The Newcastle manager is at the core of the club's future success. There were tensions with the board during the summer, which increased rumors of an impending exit from the North East club. Owner Mike Ashley failed to give him the much-needed financial backing, causing several top targets, Willy Caballero and Tammy Abraham most notably, to choose other clubs, despite Benitez doing a lot a lot of preliminary work to lure them to the Northeast.
Regardless, the former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager has chosen to bide his time. Talk of an exit has quieted in recent weeks and the Spaniard looks content when speaking to the press. While there is no guarantee he will enjoy a long spell with the club, signs are a lot more encouraging than they were at the beginning of the season.
On the pitch, he is proving he can turn the current squad into a genuine title contender. If he stays and is given a free rein in the transfer market, Newcastle could once again become a force to reckon with in the Premier League.
Mike Ashley isn't a fan favorite. While he remains the club's president, its growth will remain stunted. The prevailing belief is Rafa Benitez will eventually pack his bags if the clubs does not change ownership. At the beginning of the season, Ashley informed Sky Sports he would be willing to relinquish his hold on the club. Recent developments suggest the speculation is credible.
Mikel Merino looks a major coup
Newcastle did little summer business, drawing heavy criticism from the media as well as the manager. Given its inactivity, the general assumption was the club lacked quality and would be easily evicted from the Premier League as a result. Their opening games have suggested otherwise.
One summer arrival making a real impression is Mikel Merino, on loan from Borussia Dortmund. The midfielder has been making great exploits in the central park. His reading skills and decision-making are beyond his 21 years. Merino is currently averaging 3.35 successful tackles and 2.34 interceptions per game, marking him as one of the best ball-winners of the season so far.
Jamaal Lascelles becoming a top class player
The club skipper began the season out of the first team, not boding well for his future. Then, after new signing Florian Lejeune sustained an injury against Spurs, the Englishman found his way back into the starting lineup. He has been waxing strong since, scoring two match-winners and providing strong defence. The 23-year-old continues to grow under Rafa Benitez but his leadership abilities stand him out from the crowd.
The Mirror's Stan Collymore compared him to Steven Gerrard, suggesting England scouts should keep a close watch on the centre-back leading into the World Cup. While the pair play different positions, such high praise is deserved. Lascelles has had a positive impact on Toon since his return to the starting XI.
Now is a good time to be a Newcastle fan. If the club is sold to the right buyer and Rafa stays, the club could finally fulfill its long unrealised potential.