THERE will be some high-profile signings at Newcastle United this summer, but Dwight Gayle claims the current group of players are more than capable of making giant strides in the Premier League.
Rafael Benitez has kicked off his summer spending with the £6.2m purchase of Christian Atsu, having been sufficiently impressed with the Chelsea loanee’s performances during the current campaign. Atsu’s permanent move from Stamford Bridge has been formally ratified in the last 48 hours after Benitez confirmed his desire to re-sign the winger.
With an £80m transfer kitty at his disposal, the Newcastle boss will be making further additions once the transfer window formally reopens, with Joshua King, Andre Gray and Harry Maguire currently at the forefront of his thoughts.
However, he will want to strike the right balance between bringing in new players and trusting in the core of the side that won promotion, and Gayle feels there is plenty of room for improvement within the current squad.
The striker boasts previous top-flight experience with Crystal Palace, and while some of his team-mates have only played in the Championship, he is confident they will also progress once they experience life in the top-flight.
“You have to be excited about what the future might be,” said Gayle, who scored his last Premier League goals in May 2016 when his double helped Crystal Palace secure a 2-1 win over Stoke. “We’re a pretty young squad, and we’ve got momentum behind us.
“There’s a lot of young players, and everyone is going to be improving. The fact that the Championship title race went down to the last day is just another feature that is going to help the boys grow up. If we keep growing as a young team, you never really know how far we could reach.”
Newcastle’s players improved markedly during the current campaign, successfully shelving the disappointment of losing their opening two games of the season to eventually pip Brighton to the title on the final afternoon.
They handled the pressure of being strong pre-season favourites, and also dealt with the sense of expectation that accompanied them whenever they took on sides who regarded an outing against Newcastle as the highlight of their season.
That experience should stand them in good stead, and while the challenge of surviving in the Premier League will be markedly different to the one they have encountered this term, Gayle is confident he and his team-mates will cope.
“We’ve dealt with the pressure this season, now we have to do it again in the Premier League,” he said. “It’ll be a different kind of pressure being back in the Premier League, but the challenge will still be the same.
“This season, we’ve known that every team, home and away, were going to be up for it more than in any other game when they played against us. Whenever Newcastle fans were going to an away ground, the other team was always up for it.
“We had to overcome that, and it just shows how good a team we’ve had that we were able to do it. It shows how switched on we’ve been to be up against it, and still come out with the championship. We have to carry that attitude and togetherness into the Premier League.”
With his extensive experience of Europe’s top leagues, Benitez will be a key figure in ensuring Newcastle are ready for the challenge that awaits them next term.
The Magpies have already achieved arguably their biggest victory of the close season, with Benitez having agreed to remain in place after a productive meeting with Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley.
The Spaniard sees his time at St James’ Park as a long-term project that is gradually coming to fruition, and his relationship with the Newcastle fans is one of the club’s biggest assets as they prepare to tackle what is sure to be a testing campaign.
“The manager has been great for all the boys,” said Gayle. “We’ve improved so much, as you’ve seen throughout the season. From the moment he took over, the players have stepped it up a level. Hopefully, he continues to do that. The fans love him, so it’s a perfect match.”