Despite Newcastle United pipping Brighton & Hove Albion to the Championship title on a dramatic final day and meeting expectations by securing an immediate Premier League return, all is far from harmonious in the corridors of St James' Park.

Murmurings of discontent over a lack of quality new additions have rumbled on throughout the summer and appeared to come to a head this week, with frustrated manager Rafael Benitez's ruing early transfer mistakes and openly admitting his unhappiness with the way things have transpired in an inflated market.

"I've confirmed to Rafa and [managing director] Lee [Charnley] that they can have every last penny that the club generates through promotion, player sales and other means in order to build for next season," controversial owner Mike Ashley declared in May, a statement that is now subject to ridicule.

Fears that the popular Benitez could walk have been allayed for the time being, although the obvious disconnect is a major concern and all signs are currently pointing to an eventual parting of ways.

Having missed out on the likes of Tammy Abraham and Willy Caballero, Newcastle's headline addition of the window thus far is Jacob Murphy. The England Under-21 international, a boyhood Toon obsessive, left Norwich City in a deal reportedly worth £12m ($15.5m).

Fellow winger Christian Atsu saw his loan move from Chelsea converted into a permanent deal, while Javier Manquillo returned to the North East having somehow emerged from the debacle that unfolded at Sunderland last term with his reputation unscathed. Centre-back Florian Lejeune also joined from Eibar, while Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mikel Merino sealed a season-long loan move.

The likes of Daryl Murphy, Matz Sels, Florian Thauvin, Yoan Gouffran, Kevin Mbabu, Sammy Ameobi and Vurnon Anita were among those deemed surplus to requirements. The loss of highly-rated youngster Lewis Gibson to Everton, while not keenly felt by the first team, will have no doubt stung.

Last season

Championship: 1st

FA Cup: Fourth round

EFL Cup: Fifth round

Top scorer: Dwight Gayle (23)

Manager - Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez
Will Rafael Benitez see out the 2017-18 season as Newcastle manager?

Benitez failed to save Newcastle from the drop after succeeding Steve McClaren with 10 matches remaining in 2015-16, but cited the love and support he received from Tyneside as the main reason for signing a new three-year contract instead of exercising a relegation break clause.

Overwhelming favourites Newcastle's promotion back to the promised land was perhaps not as comfortable as it should have been given the strength of their resources, but Ashley's "every last penny" promise will have given rise to hope that they were set to assemble a squad capable of making an impact at a higher level.

Benitez boasts a wealth of Premier League experience and to lose the former Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss at this stage would be nothing short of a disaster that could have severe consequences.

Key player - Jonjo Shelvey

One of the first names on the Newcastle teamsheet, the talented midfielder, fined and banned for five matches in December 2016 after being found guilty of using racially abusive language, enjoyed a starring role during last season's title win and will be crucial to the club's hopes of keeping out of danger this time around.

Jonjo Shelvey
Jonjo Shelvey is an influential part of Benitez's midfield as St James' Park

The likes of Ciaran Clark and Matt Ritchie should continue to prove equally as influential, although a new striker is of vital importance – with Dwight Gayle surely unlikely to come close to matching his 23-goal Championship tally as questions persist over his ability to make the grade in the Premier League.


Without further additions and a striker with proven top-flight pedigree, mid-table mediocrity is probably the very best that Newcastle can hope for this season – particularly if tensions involving Benitez and ownership continue to simmer. Another decent cup run certainly would not go amiss, either.

IBT prediction - 17th

Providing Benitez does not opt to quit, then Newcastle, backed by that vociferous home crowd, should have just about enough quality to survive at the expense of the likes of Burnley and fellow newcomers Huddersfield Town and Brighton.

However, a second demotion in three years should not be ruled out if solid signings are not forthcoming and the manager decides that he has had his fill of broken promises and simply no longer needs the aggravation.

Newcastle United
Newcastle pipped Brighton to the Championship title last term