Opinion: Newcastle’s Hanley bid suggests a lack of leaders in United dressing room
Hanley will offer leadership if he is to become a NUFC player | Photo: Blackburn Rovers

Newcastle United have stepped up their pursuit of a central defender this summer, as they have reportedly made a bid for Blackburn Rovers captain Grant Hanley.

Rafael Benitez has released long-serving centre-back pair Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini, as he looks to freshen up his Newcastle side in a bid to win back promotion to Premier League at the first time of asking.

Jamaal Lascalles and Chancel Mbemba remain at Newcastle but the back four will no doubt need to be strengthened after consistent problems with defence was one of the factors in why they lost their Premier League status.  

Atletico Madrid right-back Jesus Gamez looks set to join the Magpies to offer cover across the back line as he has the ability to drop into the heart of the defence.

Hanley has been a name that has been linked heavily with United this summer, but now the deal has gathered momentum. Benitez will be hopeful that Scottish international Hanley can join Gamez in making the switch to Tyneside.

Experience counts

If the Hanley deal is to materialise, they will gain a player with bags of Championship experience.

The 24-year-old was a part of the Blackburn side that was relegated from the Premier League in 2012.  With the Scotsman still learning his trade as a professional footballer at that time, he decided to commit his future to Blackburn. And in return of his commitment, he has featured heavily in Rovers’ starting eleven.

Hanley formed a partnership with Scott Dann in Blackburn’s first season outside the top flight before Dann was bought by Crystal Palace midway through their second season. Dann’s depature left the captaincy open, and ex-manager Gary Bowyer had no qualms in giving Hanley that responsibility.

Although Rovers fell way off making a Premier League return, Hanley has established himself as one of the fans' favourites and one of Blackburn's higher standard of players.

What does Benitez’s target tell Newcastle fans

Taking away Matz Sels from the equation, United’s signings in Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie spell out one thing: Championship experience.

Benitez is evidently looking for experience and leadership. Hanley has spent three seasons in the Championship and is clearly someone that he trusted hence the reason for his Blackburn captaincy. And it also shows that he is a leader.

Gamez, who will shortly be signing on the dotted line, also offers leadership. He captained Malaga for three years where he made a big-name manager in Manuel Pellegrini believe in his skills.

Lack of leaders

The Magpies lacked any sort of leadership in their side last year. The departure of Coloccini sparked up rumours on who should be the next captain.  

Lascalles is the only leader noticeably to Newcastle fans (themag.co.uk)
Lascelles is the only leader noticeably to Newcastle fans | Photo: themag.co.uk

Jamaal Lascelles was named as the fans’ most popular choice. However, Lascelles is only 22 years old; should he really have to step up as captain? Of course, if you’re good enough to do so, then you should be given the role.

It speaks huge volumes about United's dressing room that a 22-year-old is the only possible choice that fans can trust in captaining their side back to the Premier League. Benitez has looked to have identified that problem, leaders are what he needs if his side are to be promoted.

Fans only have to look back to the last time Newcastle were in the Championship. The Toon Army had the likes of Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, Nicky Butt, Alan Smith and Andy Carroll on their books. They were all leaders and possible captains. In the dressing room United have this time in the Championship, Lascelles is the only leader that can be named.