The five best Newcastle players of the 2015-16 season

Despite losing their top flight status for the second time in seven years, there have been some positives for Rafa Benitez and Newcastle.

It's been a season of desperation on Tyneside. A campaign that began with so much optimism after last term's narrow escape has culminated in Newcastle being condemned to at least one season in the Championship. 

Boss Rafael Benitez has somewhat lifted the mood around St James' Park by seemingly committing his long-term future to the club, although the harsh reality of relegation will nevertheless make this a difficult season to stomach and some searching questions are sure to be asked.

Few of the players have emerged with anything more than a scrap of credit after such a disastrous campaign, but here are a few that have at least shown glimpses of something impressive. 

Jamaal Lascelles

Endured a difficult start to life in the first team, but has since grown to become something of a fans' favourite. His outspoken views following Newcastle's disgraceful 3-1 defeat at Southampton is widely considered to have heavily contributed to their revival, which in the end proved to be too little too late.

At 22 he is by no means the finished product, but a season in the Championship may well be the perfect environment for him to further his career, with some fans even touting him as a future Newcastle captain.

Rob Elliot

When a goalkeeper is named as your Player of the Year, chances are that it's been a difficult season. After an injury to first-choice keeper Tim Krul, Elliot showed he was more than capable of providing a solid pair of hands behind what was an otherwise alarmingly leaky back four.

A fine performance in the 1-0 win at Bournemouth was probably the high point of the ex-Charlton stopper's season, and was one of four clean sheets kept in 21 games. A knee injury while on international duty at the end of March ended the Irishman's season, and his hopes of appearing at Euro 2016.

Georginio Wijnaldum

A divisive figure among many members of the Toon Army. Despite putting in some indifferent performances on the road, the Dutch international was more impressive on home soil, netting 11 goals. Even when he wasn't scoring, Wijnaldum was an important source of creativity, completing a club-high of 1049 passes this season, with an accuracy rate of 85 per cent that was matched only by Jack Colback.

His four goals in the 6-2 win over Norwich City at St James' Park was undoubtedly his personal highlight of the season, while in contrast his anonymous performance in the 5-1 defeat at Crystal Palace arguably summed up his largely impotent away form.

Moussa Sissoko

Again, a hugely divisive figure in the team whose moments of brilliance were too often punctuated by frustratingly barren spells. Nevertheless, he was the most creative player in a Newcastle shirt over the past season, creating 56 chances in 37 games, of which seven resulted in a goal.

It is perhaps for this reason that Benitez decided to hand him the captain's armband during the last stretch of the season, although like Wijnaldum he still carries a reputation for shying away from the big occasions.

Andros Townsend

After a shaky start, the £12 million January signing showed glimmers of his best form during the last few weeks of the season.

In 13 games he managed to create 26 chances for his side and chipped in with four goals - the most notable being a stunning freekick in the 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. Keeping the winger would be a massive boost for Benitez, although if he can impress Roy Hodgson and replicate his good form for England at Euro 2016, he certainly won't be short of potential suitors.

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