The 2019/20 season is finally here. The summer started off slow and then quickly picked up as Arsenal toured the United States. The Gunners open up the campaign with an away trip to Newcastle’s St. James Park on Sunday. Ahead of that match-up, we talked with Bryan Nelson of SBN’s Newcastle’s blog, Coming Home Newcastle, to find out how the Magpies summer went and what the expectations are for Sunday, as well as the season ahead.
TSF: Welcome back, in general how has the summer been for Newcastle and the supporters?
CHN: Summer has been eventful. After having a terrible start with the departure of Rafa Benitez the signings that we have made have actually given me a little bit of hope that the club can have a better placed the finish than originally anticipated. It’s been up and down, and with news that a sale to an Emirate Prince fell through fans are also very demoralized with the knowledge that there will be another season with Mike Ashley as the owner of the club.
TSF: Rafael Benítez helped steer the club back to the Premier League but left this summer. How would you summarize supporters’ feelings about Benitez’s time at Newcastle?
CHN: We are very positive about his time at the club. He’s obviously one of the best managers that this club has ever had, and he will not be outdone anytime soon. Especially by Steve Bruce. The things said by the Ashley camp that Rafa hurt transfers instead of helping them is something that I don’t disagree with entirely, but I think fans are looking at things in a different light as well. Rafa was so beloved that it may be difficult to see things that may not have been all rosy.
TSF: Which brings us to the new manager, Steve Bruce. Lots of experience, but perhaps not the most inspiring choice. What do you expect from Bruce this season?
CHN: I expect safety. That’s all you can expect out of Steve Bruce. He’s got experience but not results in the Premier League. He’s a quality Championship manager, but out of his depth in the Premier League.
TSF: For readers unfamiliar with the ownership storyline at Newcastle, update us on the latest with Mike Ashley and the potential sale of the club.
CHN: Ha. What sale? [TSF: I guess the Magpies are stuck with Ashley.]
TSF: Last season Newcastle finished 13th, 11 points clear of the relegation zone. Where do you see the Magpies finishing this season?
CHN: 16th, 4 points clear of relegation.
TSF: Former Arsenal player Isaac Hayden has become a steady part of the Newcastle rotation over the past two seasons. What are your impressions of the player, and what do you expect from him in 2019/20?
CHN: He is one of the greatest professionals in the game. The fact that he wanted to leave two seasons ago and is still here playing his best football is just phenomenal. I expect him to build off of his performances from last season and continue to be a mainstay in the midfield.
TSF: Which exiting player do you anticipate to be the biggest loss?
CHN: Ayoze Perez. I liked his growth with Almiron and was really hoping to get a full season of the two tearing it up together. Now that’s only a dream.
TSF: And which newcomer do you think will make the biggest contribution?
CHN: New attacking winger signed from Nice, Allan Saint-Maximin.
TSF: What formation do you expect Steve Bruce to play and what is your starting XI for the opening weekend?
TSF: Based on all of that give us your score prediction for Sunday.
CHN: 2-1 win Arsenal.
Thanks to Bryan and Coming Home Newcastle for answering our questions.