COMMENT By Matt Farr
With a three point advantage at the top of the Championship, Newcastle are firmly positioned to win promotion back to the Premier League ahead of next season.
Rafa Benitez could not halt the Newcastle slide into the second tier last season, but has almost ensured their safe return back to the top tier.
However, should they be part of the Premier League roster come August, Benitez will need to make a number of upgrades to his current first team squad.
They will need greater steel and experience in their midfield in particular, so they should target one of these three proven Premier League performers:
The Arsenal man has just months left to run on his current contract at the Emirates, and negotiations are yet to begin over a new deal.
Therefore, it seems likely that he will be up for grabs in the summer. If a player of his ability becomes available, regardless of his injury concerns, he must be snapped up at all costs.
His loan move to Bournemouth at the start of the season came as a shock, but the 25-year-old has thrived in a first-team environment, and has proven a valuable player in their battle against relegation in recent months.
Wilshere has proved a calm, composed head in the midfield, and his leadership qualities have also been beneficial to Eddie Howe’s side.
Newcastle could certainly use those kind of attributes in their midfield, with Benitez’s side lacking such qualities in many of his current options.
When Jonjo Shelvey has been absent, Newcastle have been lost for answers, and Wilshere could change that.
Another midfield stalwart that could transform the Newcastle midfield is Manchester United’s Michael Carrick.
Like Wilshere, the 34-year-old is nearing the end of his current contract, and could be available on a free transfer if Jose Mourinho declines the option to extend his deal.
However, Carrick has also hinted at retirement, suggesting that would be reluctant to move to another English club after quitting Old Trafford.
But there is no denying what a player like Carrick could bring to St. James’ Park, and if there is even the slightest possibility that he could be available, Newcastle should grasp the opportunity with both hands.
He has been by far Manchester United’s best and most reliable midfielder in recent seasons, evidence that despite his advancing years, he can still perform at the top level.
Plus, he would be a huge upgrade on the unconvincing Jack Colback.
A further raid of the free transfer market could see Newcastle snap up Darren Fletcher. The 33-year-old would not be a long term addition, but could be a valuable one nonetheless in any Newcastle bid for Premier League survival.
He has been there and done it all, with vast Premier League, European and international experience to his name.
Fletcher has been ever-present for West Brom this season, starting all 27 of his Premier League appearances, and captaining the side on each occasion.
He has two goals and two assists, but finds himself without any progress over an extended stay at the Hawthorns; meaning like both Wilshere and Carrick, he could be without a club in several months’ time.
In other Newcastle transfer news, fans have had their say after a Sky Sports pundit urged the club to sign Wayne Rooney.