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Lee Clark: Newcastle bouncing; Wilson over Watkins; Shoretire at Man Utd; Fulham positives

I got a real lift when the three big signings came through the door at Newcastle in Jamal Lewis, Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser. That's no disrespect to Jeff Hendrick, who is an excellent Premier League player, but when it was just him and Mark Gillespie, I was thought it was a flat window.

I spoke in this column previously that I wanted Wilson, an international and proven Premier League goalscorer, to join the club. I've managed against him and he's got all the attributes. A great work ethic, fantastic movement off the ball and experience in the top-flight. So for me he was a brilliant signing.

Now I'm not going to say that Ollie Watkins at Villa isn't going to make it. But he's gone for £33m with all the add-ons and hasn't played in the Premier League. Ollie could go on to become a superstar if he can continue his rise and the quality that he's shown from when he was a young boy at Exeter and how he's done at a real successful club like Brentford. If he continues that development at Villa then that'll be a snip at £33m in today's game for a top striker. But when you think about the experience between Wilson and Watkins, and you think about £10-£13m difference in the deal, it shows you that it is a great bit of business for Newcastle. And Wilson proved it with a proper goalscorers goal against West Ham.

Wilson's relationship with Andy Carroll was excellent as well. The only thing negative about Andy is his injury record, but he is great foil for any other striker. Yeah he's not going to score a huge amount of goals but he'll make it so much easier for his striker partner. He wins so many aerial duels, holds the ball up, brings the wide players into play, and Newcastle have some terrific wide players now. So I thought that combination was outstanding.


Another thing that stood out on Saturday was when I looked at the strength of the bench. For the first time in a long time we had a competitive bench and you always judge the top teams by what they can bring onto push for a result or consolidate a lead.

If you look at Saturday you had Ritchie, Fraser, Almiron, Sean Longstaff, Joelinton. You've got Dubravka coming back from injury, and his replacement Darlow who is a terrific goalkeeper as he showed against West Ham, as well as Paul Dummett to come back.

If Steve Bruce can pull one more striker out of the hat before the window shuts then I'd be very confident that the squad, as long as there's no major injuries, can certainly push for a top ten place. And that's not just getting excited after one result, that's looking at the entire squad. I think they ran it close last season but probably ran out of steam. But this squad compared to last season is far stronger, far more Premier League experienced and has a lot more difference makers.

Steve, to his credit, knew that they needed more players with Premier League know-how to get around the tough season that it is. This season is going to be tougher than ever because it is going to be more congested than it has ever been, there's going to be less time off with international breaks, there's going to be a lot of midweek games for them.

They got another encouraging result against Blackburn without being at their best. Steve made changes and you look at the team there and think that's still a strong team. There's been times in the last few years where managers at Newcastle have made changes for cup ties and you can tell the team probably isn't ready to go and get a result. But you thought on Wednesday that they could definitely beat Blackburn.

Positivity is great around the club at the moment, however, there is still a little bit of fear factor because it wouldn't be Newcastle if after such a great start there won't be a trip up along the way.

But the feel good factor is strong around the city due the quality of the squad. The fans were already desperate to get back into St. James' Park, but I think they are even more desperate to get into the ground now and see this new group of players.


I think the signings this summer has made Newcastle supporters forget about the takeover a little bit.

What's been positive about it as well is is that they can see that Mike has been really pushing for this sale. The announcement this week that he has set up a legal team that helped Manchester City get over their UEFA issue shows that Mike means business and that he thinks this sale can take the club to the next level.

Newcastle United were happy with how things were conducted and they are fighting for it. I hope it won't detract but it shows that Mike, Lee Charnley and the people above are wanting to try and do something to show the fans, 'listen it wasn't anything to do with us about why this deal didn't go through'.

They've let the statements out at the right time. Who knows what could happen, let the legal people sort it out. And it's a good job we've got a manager of Steve's experience because he just gets his head down and cracks on with the players and gets them moving forward.


I don't think the signing of Hendrick will inhibit Sean Longstaff's progress at all.

As we saw on Saturday when Steve went with a 4-4-2, Hendrick played in the more orthodox wide slot of those players but he wants to naturally come in field being a central midfield player and he does it really well.

You get those lads who can do that. I had a lad at Huddersfield, now at Glasgow Rangers, called Scott Arfield who did that role really well for me.

Scott had the energy and was a central midfielder who played box to box and could break lines, but he also had that mindset where if he was playing on the right in a four, he knew what to do. He knew he wasn't going to be the tricky winger who would go outside the fullback, he would come inside and play little one-twos off the striker.

He would also tuck in narrowly when we didn't have the ball and that's what Hendrick does, which means you're not getting overrun in the middle of the pitch, and he's got the experience to know when to go infield and when to stay out wide so his right-back is not isolated as well.

But having seen Sean Longstaff over the years, I'm not sure he's ever played that type of role. I see Sean more as an out and out central midfield player. And listen, it's got to be like that. If the club wants to go forward, there has to be competition for places.

You're talking about Isaac Hayden having signed a new deal, as well as Jonjo Shelvey and Matty Longstaff. You've got young Dan Barlaser whose had a good preseason, just sniffing around the first-team. Steve might want to keep him in and around the group rather than send him out on loan again.

What you're getting is pressure on your players to deliver every day on the training ground. They're going to have to show the manager that they are ready when called upon. If he gives you a chance in a cup tie you've got to take it. If you want to be a top player and be challenging for honours, taking the club into the top half of the Premier League, you've got to be prepared to do that because that's how clubs are successful. The clubs that have players who are settled and there's no threat to their position, those players subconsciously get complacent. You've got to have that threat.


I've got no doubt there was a lot of interest in a young player who made an impact last season at Newcastle. But Matty Longstaff has done the right thing.

Matty is highly thought of by the manager, by his teammates, and by the supporters. He's a local lad. His dream was probably to pull on a black and white shirt and play at St. James' Park and score against Manchester United in a full house. Well he's done that and the feeling must have been electric.

He's wanted by the head coach, that's the start. The head coach wants him. So when someone wants you and it's your hometown club, and whether or not he could have got more money elsewhere, he has still signed a contract where he'd be getting paid very handsomely.

There's no need for him to go. Stay here, be a hero here. Try and be part of the team that changes what's happened the last five or six years. Be part of the group that gets into the top ten, an outside chance of getting into Europe, a good cup run.

Matty, every player in fact, must surely be going into training at the moment with the place absolutely bouncing. It must be electric, the camaraderie and the fun they must be having when they get down to work. The training must be intense because there are players there a little bit angry, not in the team, wanting to have a bit of a niggle and it will give training a bit of an edge. And what happens then is training becomes just like a match. The manager doesn't even have to ask for that intensity because the players make that intensity themselves, the players outside the team have a bit of a gripe and want to show the manager, while the other lads who are in the team have got the mentality of 'well I've got the shirt at the moment and I'm going to keep it'.


I've watched Shola Shoretire when my son Bobby has been down at the academy at Newcastle and played against Man Utd in the years above.

Shola is an unbelievable young talent with fantastic ability. Great pace, great movement. He made his debut this week for the U23s having just turned 16. He's not the biggest but he's powerful and I know the people at United are excited.

But what they do at United is they don't go overboard officially about players, they keep it in house and under wraps. But they will now they've got a special young talent in their hands without a doubt.

At first when I heard about him a couple of years ago, I was initially frustrated that Newcastle lost out on one of their own, but it was a scenario that couldn't be helped with his parents being offered jobs down in the Manchester area which they had to take. Unfortunately there's nothing Newcastle could have done about that.


I like the business Scott Parker has done this summer, and I wasn't too disappointed with their performance on Saturday.

They came up against a resurgent Arsenal, and what Arteta has done with that group of players and the club since he took over, there's seems a great togetherness now. It's like a flashback to the early years of Arsene Wenger's era. The way they played, they kept the ball and moved it around at speed. Aubameyang's goal was an unbelievable finish, but the actual move that lead up to it was sublime, it went from one end of the pitch to the other.

I thought Arsenal were outstanding but I think Fulham stuck in at their game and they realised what sort of level they're coming up against. They're coming up against world-class strikers, you give them half a chance and it's in the top corner. In the Championship, without being disrespectful, sometimes you might give three or four opportunities away before it goes in the back of the net. In the Premier League, invariably if you give a full chance, it goes in the back of the net.

The last time Fulham went down, what scared me about those group of players was that there didn't seem to be a lot of fight or hunger. I believe Scott Parker has completely changed the mentality at that football club. He's instilled a winning mentality, a habit of being able to bounce back, having strong characters.

And what I liked about Saturday was that he gave a chance to the majority of the players who got them promoted to stake their claim, which didn't happen previously. The lads who got them up a couple of years ago, they were confined to the bench because of the new signings. There also didn't seem to be a balance to the recruitment but that has changed this time around.

Scott was perfect in his post-match press conference when he said everyone needs to be calm. He said Fulham are going to lose more games than we win at this level, but they have got more than enough to stay in the league and I think that was the perfect response. I totally agree with Scott.

He just has to keep the mentality right at the training ground, make sure that it is still positive every time even after a defeat. So as long as they fight and scrap for everything, and when they do lose a game against the top teams, they look forward to the next one.

It is always key in the first season to beat the teams that are going to be in and around you. And without being disrespectful to Fulham, I don't think they are going to be in and around Arsenal. So win those games around you and if you nick the odd point against the top six that's always a bonus.

But personally at this moment in time I feel positive for Fulham. The manager will make sure everything is set in place, with his experienced staff around him, and I think they are going to be okay this season.

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Lee Clark
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Lee Clark

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