We speak to Newcastle Utd fan Adam Johnson ahead of the Magpies’ visit to the Liberty this Sunday…
Last season was a successful one with you winning promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt. Were you expecting an instant return?
Personally, yes – who wasn’t? With Rafa at the helm I was confident of securing promotion back to promised land we call the Premier League.
I thought we bought well last summer, making some brilliant signings which proved to be key – signing players like Matt Ritchie, Ciaran Clark and Dwight Gayle for example. Maybe we were too confident – Rafa included – when we got humiliated by Fulham on the opening day of the season. That was our harsh reality check that we weren’t as good as we thought we were.
But to answer the question, yes I was confident in an instant return, which we got.
Jonjo Shelvey moved to St James Park in January 2016 from he Liberty. What are the fans’ thoughts on him?
When Jonjo arrived we loved him, he was our star man. He had a phenomenal debut which showcased his outstanding range of passing – it’s truly sublime. However as time went on his discipline deteriorated.
He’d start an argument, put in a bad challenge and he’d take things too far. An example of many would be when he spouted racial abuse to Wolves player in a game last season – he got a lengthy ban. The suspensions are occurring too often and this is why NUFC fans are getting frustrated at him – he’s wasting his talent.
I believe if his poor discipline wasn’t a thing he’d be a key figure in the England National Team because his ability is top class. To answer, we used to think he was our Lionel Messi but now his ill-discipline is getting too much and we’re now frustrated at this player with bags of potential. It’s a funny one.
Moving onto the summer and there’s been a lot of discontent surrounding your lack of transfer activity. What’s the relationship between Mike Ashley and the fans like at the moment?
Not good and our feuding relationship has been well publicised by the media. The past few years Ashley has stood back and let others do the ‘football side of things’ – he had essentially only been funding the club.
This summer however, there has been a problem – Ashley has not kept his promises. He promised Benitez that he would be able to use the money available, unfortunately that is clearly not the case when we cannot even fund a Matt Target loan! Mike Ashley is happy to allow this club plod along. Now, I’d assume you’d agree that this is the wrong mentality for a football club owner, right? This has now left us with a world class manger who is unhappy. He is just causing problems, causing rants, causing protests – the list goes on.
If you had asked this question a year ago I would say that it is not much of a problem but now, it very much is a problem. We know Ashley is a greedy man – we saw that when he changed the name of St James’ Park to The Sports Direct Arena – and I think this problem will be a problem until he sells our club because of his greed and twisted, selfish, money driven mind.
As I’ve alluded to you haven’t made many signings. Are you happy with the ones you’ve made and which areas should you have strengthened further?
If I was to describe our transfer window this summer I’d use the word disappointing. We came into the window optimistic, we came out of it disheartened.
A particular transfer I am excited about is Florian Lejeune, a French defender we signed from Eibar in the La Liga – he looked brilliant in pre season. Another positive signing is Jacob Murphy from Norwich and he could prove to be good for the future as he hasn’t featured much so far this season.
Atsu, who we had least season on loan, has looked good so far as well – his pace is electric. I feel a position we had to strengthen was our left back position. With Dummett injured and Lazaar out on loan we don’t have a fit left back to start against Swansea and it doesn’t look as if Dummett is returning any time soon. We needed a left back.
I’ve also personally been crying out for a new number 10 – we need a real classy player. When I look at Newcastle’s squad I struggle to find a player who can save a game for us when were 1-0 down and we’ve only got 10 minutes left to salvage a point – I believe a quality number 10 could do that for us.
Rafa Benitez seems very popular with your fans. Are you concerned he may leave in the near future as has been speculated in the press?
As we know, the press love a good controversial Rafa story and I usually take their stories with a pinch of salt. I am confident Rafa will not walk from Newcastle, that is not the kind of man Rafael Benitez is.
However, if a different side came in for Rafa (West Ham) I wouldn’t put it past him if he switches teams – why wouldn’t he? He cannot trust his money obsessed owner and his relationship with the board cannot be positive, he doesn’t deserve this shoddy treatment.
Most Newcastle fans are now saying “when” Rafa leaves instead of “if” Rafa leaves. Its only a matter of time in my opinion and I wouldn’t blame him, even though he is the man all Newcastle fans worship.
Bearing all this in mind what are your expectations this term?
I expect to stay up. However, my exceptions could swiftly change if Rafa decides he’s had enough. Rafa is crucial to our Premier League survival. I think its crazy how an average, relegation battling team has a manager of Rafael Benitez’s calibre – I don’t get it.
So, with Rafael Benitez as manager Id expect to come around 15th place in the league. Without Rafael Benitez Id expect to come about 17th, maybe even a relegation place.
Who are your star players and who needs to up their game?
Good question. I could could give you plenty of names for the second half of the question! I’d say our star player is Jonjo Shelvey, when he has the right mentality.
His range of passing is unbelievable he can pick out any pass no matter how challenging it is. Mikel Merino is another name you should be wary of. We signed him on loan from Borussia Dortmund and he has demonstrated to the Geordie faithful that he too has great passing that can unlock a sturdy defence. Ciaran Clark is a fantastic defender, our best at the club. His composure and pace has suprised me and he, for me, was by far our best player last season.
I’d say Javier Manquillo must up his game as he had a truly awful game against Huddersfield, our new Spanish right back certainly didn’t excite me that day, he worried me… a lot.
Ayoze Perez is an on and off player in my opinion. Against West Ham he played with heart and determination, something he has lacked for quite a while. He frustrates the NUFC fans an awful lot and I think he needs to up his game to keep his place in this team.
What do you make of Swansea and which players if any do you fear?
Swansea have lost both of their star players – Sigurdsson and Llorente. I think this could prove costly for their chances of survival. But they have bought well, Sanches and Bony are the two names that stand out. I fear Abraham, a player we were so close to signing. He has looked sharp so far but I’m not sure if he will get the service which will get him goals. I also think you have a fantastic goalkeeper in Fabianski, he is capable of some phenomenal saves and he could save a game for you alone. I also think the Swansea City team is well balanced, which is always positive.
Predict the score and where both teams will finish…
1-2 Newcastle win. Bony, Ritchie and Shelvey the goalscorers.
I’d say Newcastle will finish 16th this season and unfortunately I think The Swans are going down despite you’re positive transfer window – they’re going to finish 18th.