Will things ever run smoothly at St James’ Park?
Newcastle United have gone from lifting the Championship title to again competing at the bottom end of the Premier League table.
And that seems to be a common demeanour under the ownership of Mike Ashley, whose antics in the summer transfer window drained the feel-good factor generated by manager Rafael Benitez since his arrival in 2016.
But talk of a potential takeover has dominated Newcastle’s skyline, where a completed deal could be the awakening of what some people refer to as the UK’s sleeping giant.
Here, we reflect back on the Magpies' 2017, and briefly look forward to what 2018 might have installed for the North East club.
Best player – The Captain
Jordan Cronin and Adam Smith: Jamaal Lascelles
After being appointed as the Magpies’ youngest ever captain at the beginning of the 2016-17 campaign, in standard terms, Lascelles has gone from strength-to-strength.
The former Nottingham Forest emerged as a potential leader when he openly criticised his teammates in front of the television camera when Newcastle loss 3-1 at Southampton on April 2016.
And as Benitez and co prepared for a Championship campaign with a mass amount of incomings and outgoings, Lascelles was elected as the man to lead the club back into the big time.
His maturity and drive throughout last season was exampled when it was revealed the 24-year-old had been playing through the pain barrier by delaying his double hernia operation until the Magpies’ confirmed their promotion.
And if anyone doubted that Lascelles wasn’t up to Premier League quality, the centre-back’s presence single-handedly provided United with late wins over Swansea City and Stoke City in September.
His absence was felt when he missed seven consecutive matches between October and December – a run that saw his teammates pick up just one-point without him.
Though, while Newcastle have only been able to gain three points in five games since his return, his leadership, aerial presence and passion has brought the Magpies fans a firmer-looking defence.
Most disappointing player – One old, one new
Jordan: Mohammed Diame
When Diame joined Newcastle from Hull City last summer, I wrote this article on how big of an addition I thought he was.
However, of course, since, I have been proved very wrong. The Senegalese only managed six goals in all competition last term, added to by just the one goal this campaign.
But isn’t just Diame goal record that disappoints, it is his all-round displays. The 30-year-old was known for his energetic box-to-box displays when at Wigan Athletic and West Ham United, but that is something the Newcastle supporters are yet to witness, nor may ever.
Benitez has often trialed Diame as a number 10 and as a holding midfielder, but he has impressed in neither, with his appearance count of 14 explaining Benitez’ urge for new signings when the January transfer market opens.
Adam Smith: Rolando Aarons
I expected him to have a big season in the Championship but he had injury problems once again which restricted him to just four appearances last season, and in total, just 76 minutes under his belt.
Aarons made his first Premier League start of the season against Manchester City on December 27. Hopefully, that will prove as a building block for the winger and he can begin to establish himself in the first team picture.
Best moment of the year – Magpies secure Championship title on final day of the season
Jordan Cronin and Adam Smith: Newcastle United lift the Championship title on May 7, 2017
Newcastle found themselves trailing Brighton and Hove Albion at the top of the Championship by seven points with three games remaining.
But the Magpies defeated Preston North End and Cardiff City to set up a final day finale as the Seagulls suffered back-to-back defeats against Norwich City and Bristol City.
The Geordie-faithful were cruising to the title with goals from Ayoze Perez and Chancel Mbemba giving the hosts a 2-0 lead by the hour mark.
However, a penalty by Glen Murray in the 64th minute was dispatched for a Brighton advantage at Villa Park – dampening the spirit at St James’ Park.
And when Dwight Gayle added a third goal, almost instantaneously, the Newcastle home crowd was sent into sheer ecstasy when they learned Jack Grealish had fired a late equaliser for Aston Villa to bring the trophy to Tyneside.
The noise around St James’ Park that day will certainly be cherished for a long time, especially with the way things are panning out this season.
Worst moment of the year – Another transfer window ends in massive disappointment
Jordan Cronin and Adam Smith: The 2017 summer transfer market
The Newcastle supporters witnessed another trick pulled by controversial owner Ashley when he said in an interview with Sky Sports in August that he was unable to provide Benitez with a transfer kitty, despite saying in May
“I’ve confirmed to Rafa and Lee that they can have every last penny that the club generates through promotion, player sales and other means in order to build for next season.”
It quickly began apparent that Benitez didn’t have any last penny the club generated when newly-promoted clubs such as Brighton and Huddersfield Town were outspending their promotion rivals.
Benitez attempted to deal with what he had by signing six players - Jacob Murphy, Mikel Merino, Javier Manquillo, Joselu and Christian Atsu for a combined total of just over £30 million.
With the lack of funds followed a lack of quality, and as a result, Newcastle find themselves in a position where their Premier League status hangs in the balance.
What to expect in 2018 – A relegation battle and pinning hopes on a takeover
Newcastle finished 2017 with a narrow and worrying one-point advantage over the bottom three, as well as acquiring just one win in their previous 12 games.
The outcome of January will no doubt almost determine the near future of Newcastle United. On the pitch, Newcastle face Stoke and Swansea, off the pitch, Benitez has a crucial transfer window to manage.
Unless Benitez can be heavily backed by Ashley – or a potential new owner – which many fans are pinning their hopes on – the club are likely to head in only one direction, and that is slipping back into the Championship.
If Newcastle are to survive and be the subject of a completed takeover, the future of the North East club could witness the most exciting times of its 125-year history.
However, that seems a huge IF, right now.