A club perennially facing the drop until the ever reliable Tony Pulis turned them into a solid unit, Alan Pardew promises to take his old club on to the next level. A manager who has shown how astute he is in the transfer market by adding Yoann Cabaye, bringing in young talent in the form of Jordan Mutch and providing a home for old favourites like Wilfried Zaha, the ex-Newcastle boss is developing a squad chock-full of potential and the ability to play some real football. What could be more important for the Eagles however, is keeping hold of Yannick Bolasie. He terrorised defences at times last season and has attracted interest from higher up the league, but keeping hold of him at least until January when he can be sold for an inflated fee should see Pardew’s men make a very solid start to the campaign, and, potentially, kick on past last season’s record high finish.
Having gone after a number of surprisingly high-profile signings, both fans and the board will be expecting improved results at the Boleyn ground in its final season as home to the Hammers. The arrivals of Dimitri Payet, Angelo Ogbonna and Pedro Obiang provide much promise as Gold and co. look to build on the strong spine of Adrian, Reid & Kouyate.
The biggest threat to their season may already have had its impact. Allowing a relatively unproven Slaven Bilic to spend so much on players, when the wise old head of Allardyce may have been the perfect thing to guide them through a time of upheaval at the club ,may well be a decision on which the season rests. One thing is for sure, a 4-3 aggregate defeat against Astra Giurgiu does not make for promising reading. It could be a season of all or nothing for the Irons; the hope is that they’re not blowing bubbles as they drown.
A once magnificent club now seemingly rotten to the core, a change in management was the best thing for the Magpies. John Carver, as much as a legend as he is to the club, was not cut out for management. Unable to conjure a performance from his players week after week, a total change in approach has thankfully been forthcoming. The appointment of Steve McClaren, should at least stop the abhorrent practices at the Sports Direct Arena, such as releasing cancer survivor Jonas Gutierrez over the phone. Once the club respect its employees, perhaps they will return the sentiment on the field.
The often unfairly maligned McClaren could be just the man to turn things around. A man full of tactics and cunning replaces a regime of previous fire and brimstone, in the hope that the core squad of very good players will respond to a more softly softly approach. If Steve can keep his first eleven fit, don’t be surprised to see Newcastle firmly lodged in the top half of the table.
I make no apologies for starting with an obvious one. A player who scored over 20 goals (albeit in the Eredvisie) last season brings with him a wealth of expectation that he has done nothing to dispel. Claiming he wants to become a club legend, both he and his manager clearly have big plans for his future, and United fans will be desperate to see him flourish. A suspicion consumes me that he will be more of a forward than a winger; this should help his goal tally, while his pace and power promises to give defenders nightmares this year. Sir Alex Ferguson always decreed no player was bigger than the club, but the arrogant ones always were the special ones at Old Trafford. Best, Cantona, Ronaldo… success starved United fans will be hoping Memphis is the messiah for the coming season and beyond.
Fee: £25 million. (Rising to £31 million) Expectation Level: 8/10
Perhaps less insightful than my previous player, Raheem Sterling is hardly one to watch. What will surprise this season though, is how he copes with the pressure of that £49 million price tag. It was clear towards the end at Liverpool he was not a happy player. Consistently played out of position as an emergency forward in a team (perhaps in hindsight inevitably) struggling to replace Suarez, Sterling couldn’t show his true abilities in cutting inside from a flank and running at people directly. A pecking order of Aguero & Bony (the impending departure of Edin Dzeko hints at another big name arrival at city too) promises to keep him where he belongs, allowing to flourish for the Citizens, and hopefully England. I’m not sure anyone can justify £49 million, but it’s going to be great fun watching this lad try.
Fee: £49 million Expectation Level: 9/10
A player coveted by a host of Europe’s top clubs, perhaps McClaren’s Dutch connections manage to swing this transfer his way. A real midfield playmaker with presence to match his ability, the Geordie faithful can be rightly excited by the prospect of Wijnaldum, Sissoko and Cabella combining this year. Scoring 18 in 42 for PSV from attacking midfield should not be glossed over either as I suspect Newcastle have a real player on their hands.
Fee: £14.5 million Expectation level: 6/10
Though West Ham’s transfer policy might not look out of place on football manager this summer, in Payet they have an intriguing player. Registering not just 8 goals but an astonishing 21 assists in 38 games for Marseille last season, here is a player who clearly has a direct effect in most of the games he plays. Usually deployed in a wide position, you can see the potential for a partnership with Carroll, should the latter be kept fit.
Fee: £12 million Expectation Level:7/10