Inside Newcastle Q&A – Hall clause, Wilson’s return, injuries, transfers and more

Once a week for an hour, The Athletic’s Newcastle United subscribers get the opportunity to ask me for my views and insight into what’s happening at the club.

I have pulled together some of the questions and my answers from the first edition of our now weekly “Inside Newcastle” live Q&A.

Want to ask me a question? I’ll be back on Monday at 2pm BST for another session…

James W asked: Was the permanent clause for Lewis Hall a mistake, given Newcastle’s tight PSR position?

Chris Waugh: It is difficult for me to say categorically one way or the other whether it was a “mistake”, per se, as Hall is still only 19 and Newcastle do still genuinely believe he has all the attributes to develop into an England international left-back. However, your question relates more to short/medium-term problems that Newcastle have faced and, in that context, it is arguably the most questionable deal from last summer.

That sounds like a curious thing to say, given Sandro Tonali has subsequently been suspended for 10 months for gambling offences, but the Italian has undoubted quality and was supposed to bring Champions League know-how. Hall, on the other hand, is inexperienced at the top level, especially as a full-back, given he is transitioning to that position from midfield, and it would be a stretch to suggest he has significantly improved the left-hand side of Newcastle’s defence.


Hall has only played 507 minutes of football for Newcastle this season (Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

Essentially, Hall’s defensive positioning and understanding is what Newcastle have been trying to improve, and his lack of game time in that position throughout youth level has been exposed somewhat.

Nobody among the coaching staff would describe signing Hall as a “mistake”, but they would admit that he requires the greatest work to develop into a top-class player. Ahead of a complicated summer, during which Newcastle’s constraints regarding compiling with the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules (PSR) will significantly limit them once more, it does feel damaging that a significant sum is going out for a player who is not yet guaranteed a first-team position.

Philip B: Do we know what the clause is which triggers Hall’s permanent transfer?

Waugh: The full extent of what needs to be triggered has never been confirmed by either club. Our understanding is that it is related to Newcastle’s final Premier League position, though, as well as to do with Hall being named in a specific number of squads.

That criteria is believed to have been met and all the parties involved — Hall, Chelsea and Newcastle — foresee the player being on Tyneside next season.

Philip M: Really enjoyed your coverage of the Toon’s injuries in your piece last week. Is there a sense within football more broadly that players are hitting a limit in terms of the intensity of training and playing? Do you see a sense of any lessons learned at Newcastle on this front?

Waugh: That is very much the general view of players and managers, yes — that it is simply unsustainable for a sport that is becoming quicker and more physical to continue to grow in terms of volume of matches. Money usually talks, though, so whether that means anything will change, I am doubtful. Newcastle, for a start, are going to Australia for this post-season tour, which seems ludicrous in a footballing sense.

As for Newcastle and learning lessons, they will certainly be better equipped to deal with the demands of European football. A deeper, stronger squad is required, while Howe and his staff will come to better understand how to condition their players across the campaign, including potentially revising their pre-season strategy, as we suggested in our piece.

Of course, a lot of the injuries have been “freak” problems, however, and it is difficult to legislate for those, beyond hoping Newcastle’s luck improves in that regard.


Scott R: Is Yankuba Minteh expected to return next season or will he be loaned out again?

Waugh: Scott, I’ll refer you to my colleague Jacob Whitehead’s magnificent piece on this very subject.

Essentially, three options are being provisionally discussed:

  • Another loan to a European club, potentially back to Feyenoord, although Newcastle may consider it better for his development to move to another league;
  • He breaks into the first-team squad and gets opportunities next season, especially if Newcastle qualify for the Europa League/Europa Conference League;
  • Minteh is sold for a significant profit to aid with PSR, if an enticing offer arrives

Before all that, though, Howe is keen to see Minteh during pre-season and assess what the winger’s level is. His own future may also be determined by Newcastle’s summer business because, if the club fail to sign another right-winger, his chances of being involved on Tyneside in 2024-25 increase.

Robert M: Any updates on those who have been out a while — Nick Pope, Joelinton, Callum Wilson and Matt Targett?

Waugh: Targett is a concern because his Achilles problem is worse than first feared and he has been wearing a protective boot, so I don’t envisage seeing the left-back involved in the short term.

Wilson is progressing well and the hope is that he will be back involved for the final few games of the season.

As for Pope, the target is the end of April but Newcastle are being extremely cautious as he has suffered from shoulder injuries in the past. I suspect he may be involved come the start of May, though.

When it comes to Joelinton, he is already back out on the grass, albeit doing individual work and he is not yet training with the team. Again, it seems like he is at least a couple of weeks away, with Newcastle keen for the Brazilian’s thigh injury to fully heal. They do not want him to break down again.

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Joelinton hasn’t played a game for the club since January due to injury (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Andrew B: We’ve heard nothing about a potential new training facility for months. Is anything “imminent”?

Waugh: The short answer to this is no, not really. More than £10million ($12.5m) has been spent dramatically upgrading the present facility, and while it has been significantly improved upon and is now very good, it is viewed by some at the club as being comparable to that of most bottom-half Premier League sides. Benton is not an elite training ground by Champions League standards.

The long-term desire remains to have a new site with a state-of-the-art facility that, if it suits everyone, may house the men’s team, women’s team and academy, although separate training grounds may yet be deemed more desirable.

While plots have been identified and some have been visited, nothing feels imminent, or even likely to occur in the medium term. It will take a matter of years to build, even when the correct site is chosen, and so the expectation is that Newcastle will be at Benton for some time yet.

David D: What do the new PSR rules mean for the club and transfers this summer? Do you think players such as Wilson, Jamaal Lascelles, Emil Krafth and Martin Dubravka will be sold?

Waugh: The suggestion is that the new PSR rules will run alongside the present PSR rules, in “shadow”, in 2024-25. Essentially, that will help clubs transition from one set of regulations to the next, but, in the short term, it should not have a dramatic effect on what Newcastle have already been planning to do. They will still be restricted by those parameters.

Newcastle have already had to comply with UEFA regulations for 2023-24 and will need to do so for 2024-25 if they qualify for the Europa League or Europa Conference League. While the expenditure-to-revenue ratio has been 90 per cent for UEFA competitions this season, it will be tapered down and, eventually, Newcastle know they must reach a 70 per cent threshold, which is lower than the Premier League’s proposed 85 per cent limit.

As for the players mentioned being sold, I think this summer feels like a natural exit point for Wilson, given his age (32), injury issues and contract status (expires next June). Lascelles’ injury makes an exit improbable, and the ACL damage suffered by the captain and Sven Botman means Krafth’s versatility may keep him on Tyneside as a useful squad player.

A goalkeeper is expected to be sought and Dubravka is keen to play first-team football, so there is a decent chance he leaves too, yes, but all of this is dependent on who Newcastle are able to sign as well.

Peter A: With Isaac Hayden and Ryan Fraser still under contract, do QPR and Southampton respectively have interest in making their loans permanent?

Waugh: Fraser has another 12 months left on his Newcastle deal beyond June 30, while Hayden still has another two. Both are decent earners and neither has a future at Newcastle, for very different reasons, with Fraser having fallen out with Howe, and Hayden not suited to the style of No 6 that the head coach wants to deploy.

Southampton are definitely interested in keeping Fraser and the likelihood of them signing permanently increases, should they regain promotion back to the Premier League via the play-offs. Whether they can afford to absorb his full wage packet should they remain in the Championship is unclear, and Newcastle may need to pay part of his contract up in that scenario, should the winger opt against taking a salary cut.

As for Hayden, I am unsure if Queens Park Rangers have communicated their long-term intentions to the player and Newcastle when it comes to the midfielder’s status.

David D: Are there any academy players close to breaking through, especially the likes of Alex Murphy when we need centre-backs?

Waugh: While there are some highly-rated players in the academy, none is viewed in quite the same way as Lewis Miley was when he was with the under-18s and under-21s. He is very much a generational talent.


Even so, Murphy is stylistically seen as a similar profile of centre-half to Botman and Newcastle hope the 19-year-old can break into the first-team picture. Travis Hernes, the 18-year-old midfielder, has also featured in matchday squads and he could well be involved during pre-season. Then there is Trevan Sanusi, the 16-year-old who has drawn comparisons to Allan Saint-Maximin due to his dribbling skills and unpredictability.

Whether any can make the step up to the senior squad in the coming months may depend on Newcastle’s summer business and whether they are given opportunities during pre-season.

In truth, many of the academy players who have been occupying places on the bench in recent months have been doing so due to a lack of numbers, rather than necessarily because they are deemed ready to make the jump.

Mathias G: Are there any transfer links we should be paying any particular attention to yet?

Waugh: Newcastle’s plans were narrowed down during the March international break, as we reported on The Athletic, although shortlists have yet to be whittled to specific primary targets per position.

Morgan Gibbs-White is definitely being tracked and, given Nottingham Forest’s PSR issues, that feels like one to watch. The same with Lloyd Kelly at Bournemouth; the defender’s contract expires on June 30 and with Newcastle’s need for centre-backs following Lascelles and Botman’s injuries, that seems like an attractive deal to do, especially given the 25-year-old can also play at left-back.

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Gibbs-White has been Forest’s key man this season, with five goals and seven assists in the Premier League (MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Benjamin Sesko is someone who Newcastle have made enquiries about before and it will be interesting to see if they enter the bidding for the 20-year-old RB Leipzig forward this summer.

More names are sure to emerge towards the end of May and heading into June, though, once Newcastle finalise their plans.

John K: Is there any news regarding new sponsorships to help with PSR? I presume efforts are being made to find sponsors for the training kit, training ground and even St James’ Park?

Waugh: Efforts are certainly being made in that regard, with Newcastle determined to ramp up their commercial revenue even further.

The expectation is that at least one or two significant deals will be confirmed before June 30 as well, with Newcastle keen to bolster their revenue streams to aid with their PSR situation. I do not have specific information on that, beyond further PIF-owned companies are expected to be involved in at least some of those partnerships.

Darren Eales, the CEO, confirmed in January that a training-kit sponsor is expected to arrive in the medium term, while a training-ground sponsor would also be considered. When it comes to renaming St James’ Park, Eales insists that fans would be consulted first and that any deal would likely be “St James’ Park powered by”, then a sponsor’s name, or something to that effect.

Robert M: Do Newcastle have to sell a big player this summer? Or will we likely see the likes of Alexander Isak and Bruno Guimaraes still at St James’ next season?

Waugh: Newcastle do not have to sell a “big player” this summer, but they do need to find a way to ensure they remain within PSR limits. The easiest way of generating significant funds to do so would be to sell Guimaraes or Isak, but there is a serious reluctance to do so with the former and a firm determination not to permit an exit for the latter.

Ruling out a sale for either would be folly at this stage, though, given no offers have actually been made for them. If a substantial bid arrives for one of them and they then ask to leave, for example, what will Newcastle do if it means they can reinvest elsewhere?

This is all dependent on other funds Newcastle can generate by selling squad players as well, plus the commercial revenue they can bring in. Europa League football also boosts the kitty as well and so there are so many moveable parts.

Although this may seem like a sitting-on-the-fence sort of answer, the reality is nothing can be ruled in or out in that regard, even if Newcastle’s intention and desire is to keep both players.


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