This will hopefully be my first published article with the soul focus being to run the rule over our current squad, which has, on mass been shaped between Alan Pardew and Graham Carr. At the time of writing it sounds like we are on the verge of signing one Vurnon Anita from Ajax who can play either as Defensive midfield or Left Back, without knowing anything about the lad it would be silly for me to make a judgment, all I would say is that Ajax seemingly bent over backwards to try and keep him, which must say something of the young man’s ability? Anita certainly fits the Ashley/Carr/Pardew blueprint which has served us so well over the last few years, young and versatile, with something to prove at a higher level and definitely a re-sale value if the £6M figure being banded about is correct.

So, onto our current squad – No marquee signing as yet, whispers of Carroll’s imminent return?, but what sort of shape are we in for the current season? In my opinion, very good. Pundit’s have always eluded to the fact that Newcastle simply don’t have enough strength in depth to compete at the highest level and, whilst I agree we are some way off of challenging for the Premiership, I do believe that between the transfer business we have conducted over recent seasons and the foundations of a thriving youth set up we seem to have in place, this will ultimately pay dividends for our club, thanks in large to a long term-vision by one Mike Ashley.

I am going to put down what I see as NUFC starting eleven, based purely on what we have at the club and then take us through our squad depth for each position to see how well covered we actually are:

So as a 4-33 GK Krul, LB Santon, CB Coloccini, CB Taylor, RB Simpson, LCM Cabaye, DCM Tiote, RCM Jonas, LCF Ba, CF Cisse, RCF Ben Arfa.

Keepers – Back up GK could be our achilles heel, with Harper a great servant to the club but possibly just not good enough to play at the very highest level. Elliott too has not had enough football for me and what I have seen of him I am unsure as to his level of ability, I would say a top Premiership/European keeper he isn’t (at present anyway). In hindsight I am not so sure letting Forster go was the right thing to do, but maybe he was adamant he wanted first team football which Pardew couldn’t offer with the emergence of Tim Krul.

Full Backs – Full backs have apparently been a problem position for us but personally I think we have sufficient cover with Ryan Taylor, James Perch, Shane Ferguson (now he is fit) and James Tavernier, all “squad players”, albeit the latter two of the four have had little in the way of first team opportunities. I feel this season with the huge amount of fixtures NUFC have will be a perfect opportunity for these youngsters to come through and show their quality and push for a place the following season. Also with Perch and Taylor, Pardew has two ready made replacements that have been there done it and seen it and can handle the pressures of the PL.

Centre Halves – Like GK this is possibly where we do need an established CH, with only Mike Williamson a recognised centre half with first team experience (Perch and Simpson have played here before but this is not their strongest position). We do look to have some good young centre backs in Paul Dummett, James Tavernier & Remie Street, but granted these players are possibly not ready to play against the highest of Premiership opposition or in European competition. In conclusion a recognised Centre Half is a priority, especially due to Colo’s age (He’s brilliant but no spring chicken) and Saylor’s injury problems are a concern.

Centre Midfielders – Even after the loss of Guthrie, I still think NUFC are more than covered in this area, I think the versatility of the current crop of players we still have numerous defensive options in the middle of the park. New signing Bigi, as he is now affectionately known seems to have a bit of everything about him, his awareness, range of passing and his ability to always find a NUFC player stands him in massive stead for a player only 19 years of age (this is only based on his pre-season exploits). Mehdi Abeid also looks to have caught the eye pre-season and is expected to make a challenge on Pardew’s first team squad, with a first goal to his name, this may just give him the confidence boost he needs to make that next step up. Throw into the mix Dan Gosling, who is yet to live up to the great expectations everyone had of him, and the versatile Haris Vuckic, (not sure if even he knows what his best position is) and that is a fair pool of players to choose from. I can see Pardew using Bigi/Abeid to come on to kill games off and screening the back four next to Tiote and pushing Cabaye into a more advanced role to try and make things happen.

Wingers – I think this is where we have a multitude of offensive options with the majority of our wingers being able to operate in a 4-4-2 or further up the pitch as part of a three-pronged attack at the head of a 4-3-3. These players being; Sylvain Marveaux – whilst not a new signing he will feel like one and seems to have bags of pace, trickery and a final ball also. Romain Amalfitano – much like Marveaux this freebie from france looks technically gifted and very quick, whilst again also able to pick a pass. Gabriel Obertan – whilst I would never describe Gabbi as a man with a final ball, he does bring pace to the side and a valuable counter-attacking outlet should we be under the cosh. So bags of pace as well as creativity in reserve looks like we are well stocked here. Worth baring in mind that Ferguson, Santon, Raylor and Sammi Ameobi have all also played in this position when required.

Forwards – The main two would obviously be the two Dembas but after that who do we have? Shola always does a job and is much in the same vain as Ba – Big, Strong and Powerful he just doesn’t have Ba’s pace, (come to think of it any pace) – but being a geordie boy you always know he will give his all for the shirt and sometimes that’s good enough for a Mackem Slayer. Younger brother Sammy seems to be a bit more of a mouth-watering prospect, if only he could add some of his brothers power without compromising his speed and skill we could have a real rough diamond on our hands. Playing out wide, Sammy sometimes tries to beat a man one more time than he needs to but up front, and, with less time to think he is a far greater prospect. Playing off his brother or Ba 70 minutes in when Cisse is having a breather and using his pace to get in behind tiring defences could definitely bare fruit.

Finally, without wanting to jump on the bandwagon is Adam Campbell – the youngster seems to have made a promising debut, in an otherwise forgettable encounter against the Blue Birds (Red Dragons). After being voted MVP in the prestigious Manchester United Premier Cup World Finals comparisons were already being made to other past winners including Torres and Tevez. Add into the mix Adam is a Geordie and product of the famous Wallsend Boys Club and some fan’s would suggest he is our next number nine. well setting aside all the hype, Adam seems to be another player with pace to burn and a natural finisher, hopefully Pardew can slowly coax him into the first team picture, give the boy some playing time in the cups and nurture this talent.

In conclusion I think we are in pretty good shape with a mix of experienced pro’s alongside unproven raw talent with stacks of potential. Yes, we probably could do with a couple of signings but what team doesn’t. I think we are definitely going the right way and progressing nicely, I hope the youngsters will embrace this fixture heavy season, with some of them really looking to kick on with their careers.

I would like to see Carroll back as another striking option but believe he will be told he must work his way into the team and get a starting spot by merit (which I think he would be willing to do) and I do think we need an experienced CH. On the flip side though if we don’t make these signings it’s not all doom and gloom. Success won’t come overnight and we have waited long enough already so a season or two more won’t hurt although I wouldn’t bet against us having a decent Cup run this year!!! Fingers Crossed HWTL.

Written by Shaun Drage