NEWCASTLE have a new manager, thought they had a new owner, but the same old pessimism surrounds St. James’ Park.
Newcastle appointed former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce earlier this month following Rafa Benitez’s exit.
The Spanish boss was a Messiah among the Toon Army given his achievements with a squad in desperate need of additions.
Mike Ashley’s unwillingness to invest was a major bug bearer for Benitez who didn’t feel those around him matched his ambitions for the Magpies.
But having completed the signing of Joelinton for a club-record £40m, what else can Newcastle fans expect from the summer? Our man in the North East Ian Murtagh takes a look.
Joelinton is in the bag but where else do Newcastle need to strengthen?
The club may have smashed their transfer record but let’s not forget numbers-wise, perhaps even quality-wise, they’re not as strong in attack as last season.
Player of the Year Salomon Rondon and top scorer Ayoze Perez, who contributed over 50 per cent of the team’s goals tally, have both gone as has Joselu.
Dwight Gayle is back from a loan spell at West Brom but Steve Bruce knows he still needs at least one more forward.
He’s looking for a full-back and a midfielder too though if both Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff stay, the latter need becomes less urgent.
How many deals does Bruce want done before the transfer window closes?
As many as he can. Like any new manager, he’ll want to put his own stamp on the team and the best way to do that is to bring in your own players.
Bruce has his critics but it’s worth remembering he’s the manager (during his days at Hull) who signed Harry Maguire and Andy Robertson when they were relative unknowns.
He was also the man who handed Jordan Henderson his Premier League debut and made big profits in the transfer market with the likes of Darren Bent and Simon Mignolet during his Sunderland days so his record in the transfer market is impressive.
READ MORE: James Tavernier discusses Newcastle speculation.
How much does he have to spend?
Well, it’s £40m less than he did have following the Magpies’ swoop for Joelinton but all the indications are that the club’s pledge that £50m plus cash coming in from player sales, would be channelled into a transfer kitty, will be honoured.
That means around £40m left – £30m following Perez’ move to Leicester plus £10m.
Cynics say owner Mike Ashley is only splashing the cash to rub ex-manager Rafa Benitez’ nose in it but it was back in April, when the club were still hopeful of keeping the Spaniard, that managing director Lee Charnley spelt out the club’s transfer plans.
Is anyone else likely to leave?
At one stage, it looked as if Newcastle’s midfield would be ripped apart. Mo Diame has already gone and Jonjo Shelvey probably would have departed had Rafa stayed.
The noises he’s making now suggests Shelvey is hoping to relaunch his Toon career.
That leaves Isaac Hayden, Sean Longstaff and Ki and there are question marks hanging over the first two.
Longstaff remains a Manchester United target and a bid in the region of £30m could be too good to turn down for a youngster with only a handful of appearances under his belt.
Hayden had told Benitez he wants to leave for personal reasons but the word coming out of St James’ Park now is that the ex-Arsenal youngster could be willing to give it another go.
He got on well with Bruce during a loan spell at Hull and the new Toon chief has already spoken to Hayden about his future.
Steve Bruce. Head Coach, not manager – what’s the deal?
Rafa was the gaffer. Bruce hasn’t been handed the manager’s title.
It’s a throwback to the days of Steve McClaren – and that’s not what the Toon Army want to read.
Benitez was adamant it was his way or the highway and a difference in opinion over transfer policy was ultimately the reason he left when his contract expired.
Bruce is no yes-man whatever some may think. He’s prepared to work alongside Head of Recruitment Steve Nickson though obviously, it would be naive to think there will not be disagreements from time to time.
The 58-year-old, however, was only too happy to sanction the Joelinton deal and has spent several hours over the past week or so in discussions with Nickson over potential signings.
READ MORE: How much is Man United’s next Longstaff bid worth?
Could any loan signings or free transfers come in?
Don’t rule it out. After all, Rondon was a loan signing and that deal proved a big success.
Agents have been bombarding Newcastle with calls in the knowledge the club is on the look-out for signings.
And it’s fair to say the likes of Andy Carroll, Danny Wellback and Daniel Sturridge are names that have been discussed.
All three would represent a risk bearing in mind the trio’s fitness records in recent years.
There would be an emotional appeal in re-signing Carroll – a big Toon favourite before his £35m move to Liverpool.
But Newcastle will err on the side of caution when it comes to dishing out contracts to players with his track record.
We haven’t mentioned the takeover yet? What’s happening?
Very little it seems.
When it was announced Bruce had signed a three-year deal at his hometown club, many fans took it as read that the Bin Zayed Group’s proposed £350m takeover bid was dead in the water.
It may well be despite claims by Sheikh Khaled’s people that they are still optimistic the takeover will happen, reiterating their insistence that Mike Ashley’s lawyers received a proof of funds statement way back in April.
No-one really knows what is happening but one thing is for certain – there will be no update and no progress report from Ashley himself.
Takeover talk will not go away and no doubt, news will emerge during the course of the season that another party is interested.
But for now – sorry Newcastle fans – it’s probably best to assume Ashley remains at the helm for the foreseeable future.
So will Newcastle go down? Can Bruce survive the season?
Thousands of fans are threatening to boycott the opening game against Arsenal and the overriding mood on Tyneside remains one of anger, unrest and despair following Benitez’ exit.
But it looks as if Bruce himself has ridden his first storm. He’s not suddenly become Mr Popular but a growing number of supporters now realise he is not the problem and while he would never have been their first choice as manager, at least he has Newcastle at heart.
The Joelinton deal has certainly lifted the mood somewhat.
It’s a results business and the Geordies have a tough start. Fail to win any of their first six games and the heat will be on Bruce.
But Newcastle are not a bad team and certainly possess more quality than Benitez would have had us believe.
If Joelinton settles in quickly and Bruce brings in two or three more good signings, they are well capable of another mid-table finish.