Toon's Top Performers......
After one of the most inconsistent seasons I've witnessed since supporting this club, Newcastle United finished the season in 12th place after a win in the capital against relegated Fulham last Sunday. Despite having little possession and a low amount of chances, we somehow walked away from Craven Cottage with all three points and a 2-0 victory which some Newcastle fans will be concerned about, as our finish seems rather unjustified and is covering some major cracks within the squad.
However despite this and for the majority of the season focusing on the negatives, I felt it be right to focus on the positives and choose my top performers of the campaign. First name on the list for me is our top goalscorer in Callum Wilson. I believe this man is the best goalscorer Newcastle have had since Alan Shearer. Although there will be those that argue both Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse did fill this void, I think he's the most natural finisher since our great number 9. Finishing the season on 12 goals and missing a lengthy period of the season, he's shown how important he is in those channels and his recent performance against Leicester proved how vital he is for us. Costing a mere £20 Million in the Summer from Bournemouth, the dividends gained on this transfer has been remarkable and I can't wait to see more of him next season. It's imperative the medical staff do all they can to keep him fit, especially if we go into next season with the same situation.
Next player on the list is our captivating winger Allan Saint-Maximin. The player who looks the real deal having settled since making his Premier League debut last year. Like Wilson, Saint-Maximin has struggled with injury this season and his individual display against Burnley back in April I believe was the fixture that kept us up. Returning from injury and being on the pitch for just seven minutes, Saint-Maximin provided an assist and a wonderful solo goal to take all three points. There is rumor the Frenchman will be subject of a €40 Million bid from Roma, although the talented maverick doesn't strike me as a Jose Mourinho player. I'm very surprised Didier Dechamps didn't take a chance with the 24 year old and include him in his Euros squad for the summer ahead also.
Following on from our tricky winger is one of Arsenal's fine assets. Loanee Joe Willock has been a revelation since moving to the North East in January and no football fan could have predicted his impact. After his goal against Fulham on the last day of the season he equaled Shearer's record of scoring in seven successive matches, and it is only those two who have done it for Newcastle in the Premier League era. Although his goals have been vital I didn't realise what a talented player he was on the ball. He drifts past players brilliantly and has a tenacious side to his game which he showed throughout. I'm hoping he'll be a priority of ours this summer with us needing legs in that middle of the park, but looking at how The Arsenal have performed this season I can't see Mikel Arteta letting him go unless big money is thrown his way. Scoring 8 goals and becoming our second highest goalscorer of the season, he may even have other clubs in the top half looking at his services.
Moving on to our voice of the team. When Matt Ritchie had a much publicized fallout with Steve Bruce in March and fell out of favour with the Head Coach, I was concerned. When Jamal Lascelles isn't in the squad I rely on Matt Ritchie to be that motivator at the back and provide a vocal outlet to spur the team on. He did just that when he came back into the squad and certain social media platforms caught fantastic moments of Ritchie either screaming bloody murder at certain players, or celebrating goals like it was a last minute winner in a Champions League final. Not only was it Ritchie's passion we missed but also his ability to deliver a ball. The winner against West Ham was assisted by the man whose ability to cross a ball from out wide is as good as anyone's. I'm thrilled he's found his place back into the squad and I hope he's still in a black and white shirt next season.
I thought I would mention a fifth player, and it will be a player that will divide opinion. I strongly believe Paul Dummett has made a difference since playing consistently in that back five. He's a trustworthy figure in that defence who's good in the air and never takes liberties when in possession of the ball. Only making fifteen appearances this season, he's a player that's rarely fit for the whole calendar year but when he is, he's someone I have faith in to do a job. It was difficult to leave out Karl Darlow as without him in certain fixtures, in particular the Liverpool game back in December, we could have been in an even worse position come the new year.
Although investment is necessary and a must this summer, I sincerely hope we keep those mentioned and invest wisely with quality added to the group.