With Rafael Benitez on the way out at Newcastle United, the supporters will no doubt be worried about who could follow him out of the exit door at St James’ Park.
The messages of thanks and admiration came flooding in from Newcastle stars past and present when it was announced the Spaniard would be leaving at the end of his contract – a reminder of just how highly regarded an individual the Magpies are letting slip through their grasp.
Benitez’s exit could see the likes of Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon – both linked with moves elsewhere after establishing themselves as favourites of the manager – move on, which would just be another bitter pill for the Newcastle supporters to swallow.
However, Danny Mills feels as though Benitez leaving could be good news for some of those cast to the fringes of the Magpies’ first team, leaving a rave review over the talents of Dwight Gayle.
Speaking of the forward, who spent last season on loan at West Brom, the former England star told Football Insider: “Dwight Gayle could have a big role to play at Newcastle next season. Benitez didn’t fancy him, and wanted a target man up front, but the new manager might fancy him.
“There’s no doubt he’s a fabulous goalscorer and he did well for West Brom last season. If you give him service, he will score goals, even at Premier League level, and he’s one player who could be a revelation, with Benitez leaving.”
To suggest that Gayle could and should be Newcastle’s first choice hitman demonstrates just how far Newcastle could fall without Benitez at the helm.
Simply put, Gayle is not a proven talent in the top flight – his 21 goals in 99 Premier League appearances during his time at the Magpies and Crystal Palace evidence he has struggled to produce the required quality to stamp his mark in the division.
Since the 2013/14 season, his average goals per game [Whoscored] reads as follows: 0.3, 0.2, 0.2, 0.7, 0.2, 0.6 – those significantly higher numbers coming during his spells in the second tier.
His shots per game average is nothing to write home about either – averaging 1.6 in his 35 appearances for Newcastle in the Premier League [Whoscored] but 2.8 and 2.4 for the Magpies and West Brom respectively in the Championship.
No matter how much service you hand Gayle, he is not going to be a prolific hitman – and Mills’ suggestion he could stay should act as a warning as to where Newcastle could end up with Benitez in the dugout.