Falcons great Stuart Grimes has told Newcastle to aim for mid-table as they prepare for the new Premiership campaign.
The 41-year-old won 71 Scotland caps and made 100 league appearances for Newcastle, helping the Kingston Park club to a pair of cup final victories before returning as forwards coach.
Replaced in 2010 but remaining on Tyneside to work as a land manager for Persimmon Homes, the Aberdonian believes the club can improve on their second-bottom finish.
Grimes said: “Some of the games I have seen have not been that exciting and in some ways the team have under-performed.
“Having said that, they seem to have made strong signings and the fact they have survived their first season back in the Premiership was always the realistic goal for year one.”
Director of rugby Dean Richards has brought in nine new players including Italian international lock Josh Furno, Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins and Championship player of the season Juan Pablo Socino. Grimes added: “I am hopeful of an improvement next season and, in terms of targets, I think mid-table has to be where they are looking.
“Any higher than that is completely unrealistic, really.
“Staying up was always going to be the big thing and they now have a full summer to have a proper run at pre-season before getting back into the games.
“The top teams in the division appear to have too many quality internationals playing for them, so that top six looks like being out of reach and so the bottom half is a bit of a league in its own right.
“I am confident from what I have seen so far that they can do significantly better than they have done this year, but I guess the proof is in the eating.” Grimes’ long-time team-mate Dave Walder has been formally added to the Falcons’ management team as attack coach after spending last term working with the club’s kickers, a move which meets with the approval of the former Glasgow and Petrarca Padova second-row.
He said: “Dave leading the attack seems a positive move.
“He is a local lad who has had a lot of varied experiences, playing for England, being successful with Newcastle and playing for a Wasps team dominant in both England and Europe. Wasps did it all did it in a modern, athletic and professional way and he ended his career in Japan, which is another dimension to it.
“He was an attacking player in his day, which helps, and there seems a strong spine to the management team now.”
Backing the Falcons’ coaching group to steer them up the table, Grimes added: “Dean Richards and John Wells have won trophies in England and Europe.
“They have the experience, and now with someone like Dave it gives balance to the structure.”