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Newcastle Q&A: Kelly a target, Tonali plays in training, Gibbs-White admired

Once a week for an hour, The AthleticNewcastle United subscribers have the opportunity to ask for my views and information on what’s going on at the club.

I’ve collected some of my questions and answers from the fourth edition of Inside Newcastle’s weekly live Q&A.

Do you want to ask me a question? I’ll be back on Monday at 14:00 BST for another session…


Dan C asked: Do you think Newcastle will sign a proper left back? I feel Lewis Hall is still too young and Dan Burn is a centre-back

Chris Waugh: A complete left back? I guess not. A defender who can also play there? That is a possibility.

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth defender Lloyd Kelly is set to be available on a free transfer and Newcastle are interested. Given the financial constraints of the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules (PSR), Howe admitted free agents are attractive propositions and Kelly has the flexibility to play at centre-half and left-back.

The rumblings at this stage don’t make left-back a “high priority” – especially when at least a forward and a centre-half is needed while a goalkeeper is being sought – and that’s because Newcastle have more options there. Howe doesn’t share your view of Burn at left-back and the Geordie was part of the joint worst defense in the Premier League playing there last season, while Hall is developing and getting more game time with a pre- full season under the coaching staff was expected to benefit the 19-year-old.

Tino Livramento and Kieran Trippier can play down that flank, while Jacob Murphy has been deployed at right-back and sometimes even right-back, plus Emil Krafth is expected to stay. So even if Burn plays more at centre-half next season, given Jamaal Lascelles and Sven Botman’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, Newcastle have options at left-back.


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Tony C: With Sandro Tonali and Joe Willock returning next season, what do you expect to happen with Lewis Miley?

Waugh: It will partly depend on whether there are exits. Howe is determined to keep hold of Bruno Guimaraes, but this will reportedly be a summer saga. Sean Longstaff’s future is one to watch as he enters the final year of his contract.

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However, if they all stay on Tyneside, then the need to sign a midfielder will be lessened. They may look to recruit another player for the engine room, but the focus is expected to be elsewhere.

Miley just turned 18 and ideally wouldn’t have started 19 games this season, all in a fairly condensed stretch. In the long run, he will hopefully benefit from it, but Howe suggested that his back injury was partly caused by the increased strain on his body.


Teenager Miley has played more than Howe would have planned this season (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Next season, he will be used more sparingly if possible and is likely to play many of the opening European games if Newcastle secure qualification. There is an outside chance he could go out on loan, but Newcastle seem to feel the midfielder’s best bet is for him to stay with the team, continue to learn and get regular minutes again given the demands that will be placed on the squad.


Caoimhin D: Is there a possibility that Elliot Anderson could be sold for PSR reasons, although it is very disappointing to lose him? If Guimaraes leaves, can we expect Morgan Gibbs-White as his replacement?

Waugh: There is no desire to sell Anderson, especially from Howe, who believes the 21-year-old has exciting potential. The frustration for the midfielder and Howe is that, due to injury, what should have been his breakthrough campaign has been too stop-start.

Regardless, Newcastle will have to make tough PSR decisions and nothing is out of the equation. Anderson’s name, like almost every other player on the team, has come up at some point in hypothetical discussions about the pros and cons of a trade. With Anderson, given he is a product of the academy, there is a “pure profit” benefit to selling him, but as it stands it would be a surprise if he were offloaded.

When it comes to Gibbs-White, I’m not sure he would be a like-for-like replacement for Guimaraes, although whether Newcastle are looking for a direct alternative or want to shift Tonali deeper to compensate for the loss of the Brazilian is unclear. Newcastle’s interest in Gibbs-White is not dependent on Guimaraes leaving, they like the Nottingham Forest midfielder.


Brinton V: Any news on how Tonali is adjusting during training?

Waugh: For months, insiders have waxed lyrical about Tonali’s exploits on the training ground. The main frustration is that, especially at the height of the midfield injury crisis, Newcastle had a top performer they couldn’t select.

Tonali has been working on his speed and it showed during the sessions, while his understanding of the demands of the Premier League and the specifics of what Howe demands has grown.

sandro tonal training


Tonali is said to be impressing in training (Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

There is real excitement within the club for his return as Newcastle feel they have a truly outstanding operator and that, as difficult as this 10-month ban has been for everyone, perversely they could ensure that Tonali it is a real long-term success.

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Oliver L: With Dan Ashworth on gardening leave, who’s handling the summer recruitment plan?

Waugh: There is no specific person in charge of recruiting as it stands, and even if a sporting director arrives imminently, they will come in and work on the plan in place.

Essentially, and this is a basic way of explaining a more complicated situation, Newcastle reverted to their processes from the January and summer 2022 windows, before Ashworth was in place.

Steve Nickson, the head of recruitment, works in tandem with Andy Howe, his assistant, in sourcing players and talking to agents. Eddie Howe has the final say on targets. Then, as part of an unofficial transfer committee, Amanda Staveley, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Jamie Reuben, co-owners, and Darren Eales, CEO, look to close deals.

Newcastle figures insist, publicly and privately, that their processes have been largely unaffected by Ashworth’s exit and are adamant they are prepared for what will be a tricky summer.

However, not having a sporting director in place is far from ideal. Newcastle’s search for Ashworth’s successor is reaching its final stages, however. Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman and Johannes Spors, global sporting director of 777 Partners Football Group, are among the shortlist of candidates now being considered for the role.


Eric F: With Arne Slot leaving Feyenoord, does that change the thinking about Yankuba Minteh’s loan next season?

Waugh: Newcastle are looking for answers as Minteh was Slot’s favorite and the head coach was instrumental in wanting to keep him. However, Slot works alongside Feyenoord’s transfer department and Newcastle’s relationship with other figures at the Dutch club is strong. Feyenoord are expected to take Minteh back on loan.


Alencer F: Any chance of Newcastle signing Aaron Ramsdale?

Waugh: Ramsdale is liked by Newcastle. Howe had him at Bournemouth and admires Ramsdale’s mentality as well as his style of goalkeeping.

If Ramsdale leaves Arsenal as expected, then Newcastle will look at the 25-year-old, but the issue will be cost. Not only when it comes to Ramsdale’s fee, but also his wages, which, if left unchanged, would not fit into Newcastle’s structure.

With Nick Pope as the established No.1, it would be a bold move to bring in Ramsdale to compete with him when they have transfer needs elsewhere.


Haydn W: Are Howe and/or Newcastle reluctant to explore European markets for transfer revenue? It wouldn’t make sense given the club’s PSR issues.

Waugh: The perception that Howe has a preference for British players is something that irks people who know him well. At Bournemouth, for example, the argument is that they could not easily attract players from Europe and therefore it was more sensible to recruit domestically.

At Newcastle, Howe mixed up his recruitment. There have been signings with Premier League experience such as Burn, Pope and Anthony Gordon, but some of the best and most expensive recruits have come from abroad, including Botman, Guimaraes and Alexander Isak. The biggest signing of each of the two summer windows was from abroad in Isak and Tonali.


Isak was an expensive import but is proving to be an excellent bargain (George Wood/Getty Images)

Howe appreciates Premier League experience. It provides a greater guarantee that a signing will occur immediately. Furthermore, Newcastle are not unique in signing players from other English clubs. Look at much of Arsenal and Manchester City’s business over the last few seasons; they made big money signs from other top parties.

I suspect the current pattern of mixing and matching will continue.


Chris L: Has anyone seen Matt Targett? He went from first-choice left-back to missing in action after his hammy injury, playing in midfield…

Waugh: That 90-second cameo as No.6 may never be replicated, but it was an interesting experiment until Targett succumbed to his unfortunate injury on November 1 at Old Trafford. An operation on the torn hamstring followed and, after a four-month lay-off, Targett briefly returned to Chelsea’s matchday squad on 11 March, although Howe admitted he would only be used as an emergency.

Unfortunately, Targett was later plagued by Achilles tendon problems. He has been advised to rest and will not play in the final three matches.

It has been a frustrating campaign for Targett, while the 28-year-old’s lack of football is a concern for Newcastle. If they decide that Targett is a player they would consider offloading for PSR reasons, his value has undoubtedly suffered.


Nicholas G: What is your likely summer pre-season schedule?

Waugh: The details of their plans are being ironed out, but after taking the USA into account, Japan looks set to be the destination for their main tour, with matches against Urawa Reds and Yokohama F Marinos set for late July and early August.

Before that, however, Howe is expected to take his squad to Europe for a closed-door training camp. Newcastle are planning to host the Sela Cup on the weekend of August 10 and 11, the week immediately before the start of the season.

(Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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