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From 6 of the worst to 6 of the best for relegated Newcastle

| 17.07.2016

It is wise not to pay too much attention to friendly results, but occasionally there will be one that is impossible to ignore. One such example came in the July after Newcastle were last relegated from the Premier League in 2009: Leyton Orient 6-1 Newcastle.

Of course everything worked out okay in the end, with the Magpies regaining their top-flight place at the first attempt – they are 7/4 to once again emerge as Championship champions in 2016-17 – but it was emblematic of the sense of crisis engulfing the club at the time.

Fast-forward seven years and they are in the same predicament, contemplating how a squad that should have no issue finishing at least 17th in the Premier League has ended up in the Championship, yet the mood is completely different and so is the friendly output: Bohemians 0-6 Newcastle.

Yes, just as it was misguided for doom merchants to forecast further woe ahead when the Tynesiders were turned over by Orient then, it would be unwise for the Toon Army to overanalyse a dominant exhibition outing against inferior foes now.

However, it is excusable to take a peek at the list of goalscorers and be exhilarated by the attacking talent that they are bringing with them to the second tier.

The six net-finders in Dublin included a midfielder who fired 11 times in his first ever Premier League campaign in Georginio Wijnaldum and a £13m Serbia international forward who struck nine times in his 22 top-flight starts, improved as the season unfolded and, aged 21, has the potential to get even better in Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Also on the sheet were two new signings recruited from clubs in the division above. Dwight Gayle notched 26 times in 34 starts for Crystal Palace, while Matt Ritchie scored 15 and set up 17 when leading Bournemouth to the Championship title in 2014-15.

The other two goal-getters were two players of immense promise who are yet to show their full worth at St James’ Park.

Rolando Aarons is perhaps their brightest youth prospect since Andy Carroll and still only 20. Florian Thauvin was written off too quickly last term after failing to make an immediate impact in a struggling side, starting a mere three league games before being sent back to Marseille on loan.

The 23-year-old hinted at his class when prospering alongside Premier League hits Dimitri Payet and Andre Ayew for the French giants, scoring five and assisting four in 2014-15. The Championship may provide a platform for both to prove their quality, just as the 2009 demotion revived several careers.

As much as those six offensive options give Newcastle fans plenty to get excited about, the real root of the enthusiasm is clearly Rafael Benitez.

The Spaniard started 2016 in charge of Real Madrid and combines the European trophy-winning knowhow of Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti with second-tier promotion expertise, guiding his previous two second-tier employers Extremadura and Tenerife up in his first full season as coach.

Rarely have a recently-relegated club appeared to look in such good health, and it is no surprise that they are as short as 5/6 for a top-two finish.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.



Alex Fortune