Former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch has suggested Newcastle’s decision to allow Rafa Benitez’s contract to expire was the “defining moment” of our summer, as written in his column for the Daily Mail.
Toon chiefs had been in negotiations with the Spaniard to extend his tenure on Tyneside, but failed to reach an agreement that suited all parties, and Benitez left in June and joined Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang, who later signed Salmon Rondon.
Bruce eventually arrived as Benitez’s replacement, signing a three-year contract, but ex-England star Crouch feels the decision to part ways with his former head coach could prove to be the difference this season. And if things start poorly under Bruce, the atmosphere at St James’ Park could turn toxic.
“The defining moment of their summer came in the last week of June,” he wrote. “Parting company with Rafa Benitez could be the difference in deciding whether they stay up. That is no criticism of Steve Bruce, but I have worked with Rafa, and I know what he can do for a team.
“St James’ Park is such a great place to play football, but they are facing the very real prospect of fans becoming disenchanted very quickly if early results do not go their way.
“I have my doubts about everything. With Rafa, they were guaranteed to stay in mid-table. Bruce has the job he has always dreamed about – I hope for his sake that it doesn’t turn toxic. “
Keeping with the strikers club, former Reds forward Crouch – who won the FA Cup under Benitez in 2006 – has suggested Joelinton will be our key man this season.
“Newcastle smashed their transfer record to sign the big Brazilian, and will hope they have found their latest iconic No. 9,” he added. “[Joelinton] looks well-suited to the Premier League. [He] is exciting locals, but will he light up the Premier League?”
Crouch penned his thoughts as part of a column predicting where each top-flight side will finish, and suggests United’s most-likely end result will be to secure 17th, with Aston Villa, Brighton & Hove Albion and Sheffield United pencilled in as the sides who will drop down to the Championship next summer.