Newcastle United’s summer dilemma as Champions League hopes rise
and live on Freeview channel 276
The possibility of European football returning to Tyneside is a very tantalising one for supporters. It has been more than two decades since Zadok the Priest was heard at St James’ Park, and over a decade since they qualified for any sort of European football.
Now though, the return of European nights is fully in their grasp. Two brilliant wins over Manchester United and West Ham this week signalled to everyone that this side, despite their recent stumble, mean business.
For supporters, European football would be a sweet and long-awaited return to the continent. And for Eddie Howe’s side, it would be a fitting reward for their transformation under the former Cherries boss.
For the club though, it would signal work is just beginning and give them more than one or two headaches heading into the summer transfer window.
Qualifying for Europe this season would be one or two years ‘ahead of schedule’ for Newcastle under their new owners and would usher in a summer window that could see drastic changes at the club.
The first thing that would need to be addressed is Howe’s bloated squad. Players like Ciaran Clark, Jeff Hendrick and Isaac Hayden are expected to leave the club, whilst Matt Ritchie and Paul Dummett are out of contract at the end of the season. Although Ritchie and Dummett have only featured sporadically under Howe, the pair, particularly Dummett, do offer something unique to the squad - their ‘home grown’ status. Rules for European football require every team to have a quota of ‘home grown’ players in their squad.
Some of this ‘home grown’ quota can just be filled by players that have been trained by a club in England, however, a smaller section does require Newcastle to name in-house ‘home grown’ players, i.e, players that have come through their academy system. Years of neglect by the previous owner means very few first-team players actually fill these requirements.
However, Dummett would fill this and although his impact in the first-team has been very limited in recent times, simply having him as a member of the squad would afford Newcastle the opportunity of signing someone from abroad.
Speculation that Dummett may be offered a new deal has been met with scepticism on social media, but for the club, he is undoubtedly seen as a safe option, someone that will give their all for the cause and allow them to invest in new signings, safe in the knowledge their quotas won’t be too badly affected.
Of course, the hope will be that in the future, Newcastle can begin to develop players through their system and have their first-team squad dominated by these local lads. Right now, that simply isn’t the case and is why someone like Dummett could be invaluable to the club in the coming months.
Dan Ashworth’s work at Brighton and the FA prove he has the track record required to help facilitate a path between the academy setup and the first-team. For now though, the Magpies will have some tough decisions to make as they wait for their long-term vision to become a reality.