January Transfer Window 2017: NUFC

The January Transfer Window. It comes and goes every year, Jim White get his yellow tie out and while some managers love and loath it, it is an opportunity to strengthen their squads. Newcastle United did not get that memo.

It is thought Rafa Benitez desired to bring in a central midfielder and a winger to strengthen his side for the Championship run-in. Neither came and the manager in charge of ‘all footballing matters’ does not know what happened. Newcastle recruited no new faces in an underwhelming January window but then that does not come as a surprise. However, six faces left the club on loan.

In this post, I will discuss the transfers that Newcastle United was involved in during the transfer window. This also includes the returning loan players and commenting on their loan spells away from the club. I will also discuss to interesting developments that may well have had an impact on Newcastle’s transfer activity; or rather lack of it. First, though, I will discuss…

How did my Predictions fare?


In my December post, I outlined where I thought Newcastle could invest in the squad as part of a ‘wishlist’.

Chelsea's Ruben Loftus Cheek had been the subject of enquiries from Newcastle about a loan signing but stayed at Chelsea during the january window [Image from Chelsea F]
Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus Cheek had been the subject of enquiries from Newcastle about a loan signing but stayed at Chelsea during the January window [Image from Chelsea FC]

A Creative Midfielder: First on my wishlist was a creative midfielder that can split open defences with a pass as when Jonjo Shelvey has been absent there has been a lack of creativity from Newcastle. I had four potential targets. As potential loan signings, I had Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tottenham Hotspur’s Tom Carroll. Lotus Cheek featured for Chelsea in their FA Cup exploits in January and did not depart Chelsea during the window. Carroll did and rejoined Swansea City for approximately £4.5 million having spent the 2014/15 season on loan at the Liberty. For potential permanent deals; I had thought Benitez could consider Darren Gibson or Alan Judge. Gibson joined Sunderland during January after rejoining former manager David Moyes who he attributed as a ‘big influence’ in his decision to join them in an interview with the Liverpool Echo. Judge meanwhile, remained at Brentford Town.

Tiptoe eventually left Newcastle United and is now in China with Beijing BG [Image from The Mirror]
Tiptoe eventually left Newcastle United and is now in China with Beijing BG [Image from The Mirror]

Cheick You Later: Sky Sports reported they understood Cheik Tiote was heading to China with Shandong on transfer deadline day though he has now departed for Chinese club.

Pending Futures: As well as Cheick Tiote, there were also first teasers Yoan Gouffran, Vernon Anita as well as loanee players Sammy Ameobi, Haris Vuckic and academy player Kyle Cameron to name a few with their futures beyond May uncertain. While I think it is now certain Vuckic will be allowed to move on, there have been no confirmation regarding the longer term futures of any of these with the exception of Tiote who has now departed to China.

Stave off Premier League Interest: After previous January transfer windows under Mike Ashley’s ownership, one of the things I did not want to see happen was any of Newcastle’s core players being offloaded to a Premier League club. Thankfully, there were no such departures that could have followed suit in the likes of Andy Carroll and Yohan Cabaye.

Christian Atsu permanent: This one was always a hypothetical thought that if Newcastle could afford to make Christian Atsu’s loan move permanent. It was always just a thought and the fact this was not done is irrelevant. If Newcastle secure promotion back to the Premier League then the buy option is there.

An attacking midfielder: I would have liked an attacking midfielder to come in to give Benitez a further option in that part of the field as the two players he utilises in attacking midfield; are they natural to that position. I had identified Zlatko Junuzovic at Werder Bremen as a potential permanent signing and Josh Onomah at Tottenham Hotspur as a potential loan signing. The Austrian international I thought could have been a relatively cheap option with his deal at order Bremen expiring in 2018. However, Junuzovic remained at Bremen while Onomah remained at Tottenham.

Robert Snodgrass departed Hull City for West Ham [Image from sky sports]
Robert Snodgrass departed Hull City for West Ham [Image from sky sports]

A Winger: This might and probably should have been higher up my wish list as it was on Benitez’s. I had identified a few players I’d have liked to see come to Newcastle. Hull City’s Robert Snodgrass is no longer Hull City’s player as the Scotland International joined West Ham in a £10 million deal after Burnley also had a bid accepted. I had thought Leon bailey at KRC Genk would have been an interesting addition in this position though was always included as maybe someone to look at for the Summer. However, he joined Bayer Leverkusen on transfer deadline day for a fee in the region of £12.8 million. The third player was Ademola Lookman is who joined Everton from Charlton Athletic in a staggering £11 million deal but he had a dream start in scoring a delightful goal in Everton’s 4-0 demolition of Manchester City.

Defence: This one is not ever worth commenting on as this I thought would be lowest of Benitez’s priority list in January.

What happened to the Players Newcastle were linked with?


Notoriously, transfer deadline day was one of frustration for Newcastle United fans who looked like we might be welcoming back Andros Townsend from Crystal Palace. Benitez himself also thought this deal was going to be completed. However, Sky Sports Keith Downie tweeted the deal was off but an earlier one gives the indication that Crystal palace changed their demands at the eleventh hour.

Does missing out on this deal bother me much? It would almost have secured promotion to the Premier League in my mind, no doubts about it. However, Townsend could easily be back on the radar in the Summer with no added on loan fees as has been discussed. Some of the performances at times have been inconsistent but the squad as it is should get Newcastle United promoted.

Now, I will just go through what happened to every player Newcastle were linked with according got NUFC.com:

Tom Cleverly: The England International midfielder joined Watford on loan from Everton
Paul Hart: The English international goalkeeper remains on loan with Tornio from Manchester City
Ryad Boudebouz: Midfielder remained with Montpellier
Kevin Stewart: Defensive Midfielder remained at Liverpool
James McCarthy: Irish midfielder stayed at Everton
Ben Osborn: Midfielder remained at Nottingham Forest
Jozef Martinez: Venezuelan international forward Joined Atlanta on loan from Torino
Tom Cairney: midfielder remained at Fulham
Tom Ince: attacking midfielder/winger stayed at derby County
Sam Clucas: midfielder remained at Hull City
Dimitar Berbatov: The veteran Bulgarian striker dreamed of playing for Newcastle United as a youngster but will more than likely never happen; has been without a club since leaving PAOK last summer.
Sheyi Ojo: Remains at Liverpool
Cheick Keita: Joined Birmingham City from Vertis Entella
Filip Benkevic: Croatian centre-back remained with Dynamo Zagreb
Ante Coric: 19 year old Croatian international also remained with Dynamo Zagreb
Modou Barrow: Linked by Sky Sports but ultimately joined former manager Gary Monk at Leeds United on loan from Swansea City
Tom Lawrence: This one would have hurt Mick McCarthy as he has been on one of his best performers during his loan spell at Ipswich Town from Leicester City which is where he remains
Gabriel Pires: Brazilian midfielder stayed at CD Leganes
Mimoun Mahi: 9 goal winger at FC Groningen was linked in Holland on deadline day but nothing materialised and the player remains at Groningen

NUFC Transfers in Stats


January 2017

Players bought: 0

Money spent: 0

Players Sold: 0

Money received: 0

Net spend: 0

Players loaned OUT: 6

Players loaned IN: 0

2016/17

Players bought: 11

Players loaned in: 1

Total Money spent: £55,000,000

Biggest transfer in: Matt Ritchie (Bournemouth) £12 million

Average spend per player:  £4,583,333.33

Average age signings: 25 years and 7 months

Number of players sold: 7

Money received: £85,720,000

Biggest transfer out: Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham Hotspur) £30 million

Average money received per player: £12,245,714.30

Number of players released: 5

Average age of sales: 26 years

Average age of all departures (released included): 27 years and 5 months

Net Spend for the season: +£30,720,000

So, What did Newcastle do?


While no first team player came into the club, Newcastle did do some transfer business. Yes, they were loan departures for players to give them their first opportunity of first team football; the next step in their football development or just to get them game time elsewhere.

IN: none

Return loanees: Sammy Ameobi (Bolton wanderers), Haris Vuckic (Bradford City), Jamie Sterry (Coventry City), Ivan Toney (Shrewsbury Town), Alex Gilliead (Luton Town), Kyle Cameron (Newport County)

OUT: Freddie Woodman (Kilmarnock) loan, Callum Roberts (Kilmarnock) loan, Sean Longstaff (Kilmarnock) loan, Ivan Toney (Scunthorpe United) loan, Alex Gilliead (Bradford City), Tim Krul (AZ Alkmaar) loan

The Return Loanees time away: Hit/Miss


nufc loan players january 17 return part 1Sammy Ameobi’s loan spell at Bolton Wanderers was one of the success stories as he seemed to have found his level. Amoeba contributed four goals to Bolton’s season including two stunning strikes; the first against Sheffield United in the FA Cup Second Round and in front of the Sky cameras against Gillingham. Bolton wanted to keep Ameobi but manager Phil Parkinson cited the impact of the African Cup of Nations o Newcastle’s squad as a factor in not being able to extend the deal. Benitez has given Ameobi a couple of opportunities in January suggesting Ameobi has either forced his way into his plans or he might soon be out again.

Verdict: HIT! A loan deal went well on the surface with the loan club wanting to keep the player but unable to. Ir remains to be seen what will happen when Christian Atsu becomes available again after the African Cup of Nations as well his longer-term future; has he put himself in a position for a new deal or has the loan put him in the shop window for the summer?

Haris Vuckic’s loan spell at Bradford City started woefully; a 5-0 defeat at Burton Albion with Bradford’s reserve squad. So, to say he had a big impact at Bradford is probably far from the mark. Three of his four goals for Bradford came in the EFL Trophy and his impact in League One was underwhelming with the Slovenian failing to play a full 90 minutes. Bradford boss Stuart Mccall worked with Vuckic at Rangers but something I don’t think clicked this time around as surely Vuckic; having made no impact on Benitez’s plans in January with a Diame away at the African Cup of Nations; I think his time at Newcastle will be over at to the end of the season.

Verdict: MISS! Not really effective and some poor showings seeing him brought off at half time; unlikely to gain a new deal at Newcastle beyond the summer.

nufc loan players january 17 return part 1It seems difficult to evaluate Jamie Sterry on the basis of his loan spell at Coventry City; a club a number of local journalists have described as rotting. The youngster’s first opportunity at regular first team football could not have been in a more poisonous atmosphere than Coventry City who sat 21st in league One with 21 points when he returned at the start of January. Despite the low league position, Sterry felt ‘It was a good experience at Coventry’ having played ‘every week for which I was fit’. Benitez did give Sterry game time in January suggesting there is a place for him in the Spaniards plans but was limited t a cameo 10-minute appearance against Rotherham United due to being cup tied. He did get hs first professional career goal while at Coventry with a great strike (for a defender) against Morecambe in the FA Cup.

Verdict: HIT! A solid loan spell at a difficult environment but experience Sterry well needed for his development. Hopefully, Sterry could challenge for more game time at Newcastle for the remainder of the season or go out again to gain further experience.

nufc jan 2017 return loanee players part 3Seven goals and seven assists for Ivan Toney at Shrewsbury Town meant he was involved in half of Shrewsbury’s 28 league goals while Toney was on the pitch. Equally alarming though was his disciplinary record: 12 yellow cards and one red. Highly impressive for a striker and record even Mario Balotelli would be envious of. Despite that, his impact at the right end of the pitch in a struggling side like Shrewsbury was enough for Scunthorpe United to give him a chance. Toney departed stating ‘it was a great experience and still a learning curve’. Perhaps it was the view of Shrewsbury being a ‘learning curve’ that manager Paul Hurst was ‘not going to lose any sleep over…’. Hurst also said, ‘I want people who want to be here’ in relation to Toney.

Verdict: HIT (for the player) and MISS (for the club): Certainly an impressive goal involvement rate for Shrewsbury and has got him a chance at Scunthorpe but perhaps the comments from Hurst have some merit. Since he left on 3rd January, Shrewsbury managed to finish January at the lofty heights of 19th (having been 23rd at the start of the month) after going unbeaten and collecting 8 points from 12 in that time.

nufc jan 2017 return loanee players part 3Alex Gillead ended his loan spell at Luton Town with the Kenilworth Road side with the club in 6th place in League Two with 38 points following a 1-0 defeat to Portsmouth at Fratton Park. Gilled scored two goals for the club in all competitions and performed consistently enough for League one clubs to take an interest. Despite the slow start to his loan spell, Gilled worked his way into Nathan Jones’s plans and the manager wanted to keep him. Gilliead himself was happy at Luton as he was ‘learning all the time and developing as a player’. A move higher up the leagues, though, was what Newcastle wanted for the player.

Verdict: HIT! The player enjoyed himself at Kenilworth Road, Luton Town manager Nathan Jones wanted to keep him so the verdict is never in doubt.

nufc loan player returnees jan 2017 part 2After spending the second half of last season at york City in League two and ultimately being relegated; to be involved in a second relation battle is perhaps not the best of records for a player to have. The loan move was sat least meant to be a consolidation of the first team experience he;d gained at York but something just did not work as he was limited to just eight appearances. His best point being at the heart of the defence that ended Carlisle United’s unbeaten start to the season. Unfortunately, commitments with the Scotland U18’s meant he missed a handful of games for Newport but he did not play for the club since November after injury issues kept him out of the squad as new manager Graham Westley sent him back to Newcastle prematurely.

Verdict: MISS (Not meant to be)! Cameron’s contract with Newcastle expires in the summer but his poor luck with injuries and age (19) I think will be enough for the defender to be kept on at Newcastle in the summer. I don;t think he’s ready to be in the first team so hopefully, he gets another opportunity out on loan during the second half of the season.

Tom Heardman: Hartlepool United
I will keep this pretty short due to the brief nature of Tom Heardman’s loan spell with Hartlepool United. He only managed a meagre 7 minutes over two league games for the club and was back playing with peter Beardsley’s U23 Newcastle side but according to Sky Sports was still on Hartlepool’s books come their game with Cheltenham Town on 12th November. Either way, the stats don’t read well for Heardman: three games, no goals and no assists and a second loan spell away which has not fared well for the striker.

Verdict: MISS! At 21, I think it will be unlikely Newcastle will retain at the end of the season if his contract is up as there is hardly anything of note to take from his Hartlepool adventure.

Transfers Out!


1st January 2017: Freddie Woodman, Callum Roberts and Sean Longstaff to Kilmarnock; Loan.

Kilmarnock's treble loan signings from left to right: Callum Roberts, Freddie Woodman and in Longstaff [Image from Kilmarnock FC]
Kilmarnock’s treble loan signings from left to right: Callum Roberts, Freddie Woodman and in Longstaff [Image from Kilmarnock FC]

Newcastle quite infamously sent five players out on loan to Rangers in the same deal in 2015. 2017 saw three players simultaneously make the switch on loan to Scottish football to a club also with ties to Tyneside: former player and now Kilmarnock manager Lee Clark. Clark has been in charge at Kilmarnock since February 216 and his time in the North East seemed to have played a part in this triple deal. Especially after Clark told BBC Sport, ‘They are good players who I know a lot about having watched them when I’ve been back in the North East’.

All three players are promising prospects. Goalkeeper Freddie Woodman is capped by England at every level up to the Under 21’s having played in Aidy Boothroyd’s side against Kazakhstan in October and was a crucial part of the U17 squad that won the 2014 European Championship. Prior to the January transfer window, this is one player I wanted to see go out and get some first team experience as he had Matz Sels, Karl Darlow and Rob Elliott in front of him in the pecking order at Newcastle and that’s without considering Tim Krul. Getting this experience I think will be key to giving him an opportunity to challenge and potentially break into the Newcastle senior squad in a way similar to Paul Dummett when on loan at St Mirren and if developed right could be the first key step to him being maybe one day; England number 1. So, this is one I was pleased to see go through!

Callum Roberts is capped twice at England Under 20 level after featuring in the 2-0 victories over the USA and Netherlands in October. It is clear from the stats this season Roberts is too good for reserve team football. (five goals and six assists in nine games) so the benefit of first team football is the next step for him and should benefit him greatly. The same can also be said of midfielder Sean Longstaff. Longstaff, the nephew of former Newcastle United youth product, Celtic and England International midfielder has a had a solid season so far with the Reserve team. Six goals and three assists in 11 appearances for Beardsley’s U23 side this season. Either one of the other could have been considered by Benitez when Jonjo Shelvey was serving his five-game suspension. Perhaps Benitez thought it was too soon for these two and is an assessment I would be inclined to agree with.

MY VERDICT: A very good move for the three nineteen-year-olds. Could they have been used in Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle first team squad? possibly. The opportunity may have been too much and yes Scottish football is nowhere near the levels of English football, but the experience of top flight football and to gain said experience together could be invaluable in their careers.

12th January 2017, Ivan Toney to Scunthorpe United; Loan

Ivan Toney being unveiled as a Scunthorpe United player until the end of the season [Image from Scunthorpe United]
Ivan Toney being unveiled as a Scunthorpe United player until the end of the season [Image from Scunthorpe United]

After returning from his loan spell with Shrewsbury Town. nine days later and Ivan Toney was on the move again. This time, Toney moved to League One promotion chasers Scunthorpe United. Looking at his comments following the announcement of the move, it seems clear the striker wanted to be paying for an attacking and in form side. He told Scunthorpe United’s <adia Channel, ‘…I want to kick on now and get goals here. As a striker you want loads of chances and loads of crosses to get your tally up’. At the time Toney joined Scunthorpe, his new side had scored 49 goals in the league; just slightly more than that 24 Shrewsbury had managed to that point. Former club Northampton Town had made an effort to bring Toney back to Sixfields but his decision rested on where he thought he could score the most goals as the 35 league goals by Northampton at the time was probably not enough for Toney.

VERDICT: Well, he’s certainly got the ambition but he will need to put his scoring boots where his mouth is. Toney joined Scunthorpe with a record of 9 goals in 47 League One appearances. While that in itself is not impressive, he is still 20 years old and his record is with struggling sides in the division. To publicly state what he has after going to a free scoring club like Scunthorpe he will need to hit the ground running.

12th January 2017, Alex Gilliead to Bradford City; Loan

Alex Gilliead joined Bradford City on loan [Image from Bradford City FC]
Alex Gilliead joined Bradford City on loan [Image from Bradford City FC]

Another player making a step up in the loan market is Alex Gilliead. The 20-year-old winger scored two goals and assists at Luton Town earlier in the season; enough to earn himself a shot at League One. Bradford City manager Stuart McCall told the club’s website, ‘Alex is someone we’ve been monitoring since the summer’ and cited his previous loan spells at Luton and Carlisle United as good signs of his ability. Gilliead has represented England at every level up to Under 230 level but has no ion involved since a 4-3 defeat to France in 2015.

VERDICT: Next stage on the ladder for Gilliead who will hopefully be hoping to make a more lasting impression at Bradford City than Haris Vuckic did.

31st January 2017, Tim Krul to AZAlkmaar; Loan

Tim Krul switched Ajax for AZ Alkmaar [Image from itsagoal.ng]
Tim Krul switched Ajax for AZ Alkmaar [Image from itsagoal.ng]

The only transfer deadline day deal involving Newcastle was the confirmation of Holland international goalkeeper Tim krill joining AZ Alkmaar on loan. This was a surprise to me as I didn’t even realise he had left Ajax but there you go, Tim krill is now at another Eredivisie club. He almost joined Watford on deadline day but that move collapsed due to a number of medical tests. The goalkeeper has only been match fit since recovering from his cruciate ligament injury sustained in 2015 since November but he did not feature once in the Ajax first team. He hopes to show his fitness levels at AZ and publicly thanked the club for the opportunity. He said, ‘When they called, I could hardly say no. They have put so much confidence in me that I decided to come’.

VERDICT: Was that a parting shot at Peter Bosz (Ajax coach), and is this move an admission of defeat at Ajax? Who knows but it seems clear Krul felt he was not going to get the chance at Ajax. He needs game time to convince Rafa Benitez he is not a spent force going into next season.

£33 million?


Thirty-three million pounds. That was a figure thrown around by The Evening Chronicle at the start of January after they reported Mike Ashley loaned the football club £33 million to help the club financially operate in the Championship. The report in the Chronicle also expressed the view it was not intended to bolster Rafa Benitez’s transfer kitty.

Prior to this season, Mike Ashley had loans outstanding to Newcastle United in the region of £129 million from the last time the club were in the second tier. That figure will now be approximately £162 million. That is if none of the previous £129 million had been recalled. Considering the fact more funds have been required, I don’t think he has.

Now, to give ourselves a rough idea, I have compiled an estimated model of what Newcastle United’s finances for this season are.

NUFC 2016/17 FINANCES

IN:
Premer League payments 2015/16 18th: £72,846,635
Premier League Parachute Payments: £46,750,000
Wonga Shirt Sponsorship: £6,000,000
Transfer fees received: £85,720,000

Total known expenditure: £211,316,635

OUT:
Transfer Expenditure: £55,000,000
First team wages: £60,633,716

Known total outgoings: £115,633,716

Known net spend: + £95,682,919

Unknown In:
PUMA Shirt deal:
Stadium advertising:
2016/17 TV money

Unknown Expenditure:
Utility bills (lighting and heating of St James Park and other locations owned by the club); due to increasing due to more night games.
Catering and Hospitality staff
Police costs/Security
Wages for the Academy and U23 squads as well as the coaching staff
Board members pay
More travel due to a season being at least eight games longer; four away.

Some of the figures here do need explaining. The wage total is figured out using figures supplied by the Evening Chronicle who they themselves used Football manager. Yes, I know that is not the most reputable of sources but it is the closest to an answer I found. The figure was £1,166,033 per week and based on the assumption of each player being paid the same for the full 52 week year; no holidays included.

The other debatable figure is how much Newcastle actually receive in Parachute payments from the Premier League. The current £5.1 billion Premier League TV deal is valid over three seasons. So, the total pay to Premier League clubs is worth £1.7 billion over the 20 clubs this season alone. As a relegated side, Newcastle United is entitled to 55% of the equal share which is £85 million. That works out as an approximate figure of £46,750,000.

They are by no means a complete picture and there a large number of expenditure that my estimates cannot account for. It is not intended to dilute the picture of what finances might be like at Newcastle United at present. The figures also do not give an indication on if they were paid up front in one lump sum or are paid in instalments which would alter the picture as well.

All of the unknown costs I have added to the picture may not be all of Newcastle United cost’s. Although, a £95 million profit is healthy, there is no way of knowing how much is spent on costs I have not included. For example, I cannot imaging lighting St James’ Park for first team, reserve team games and travel cannot come cheap.

While I can’t say what all of those costs are and how much they are, it does leave the question of just where exactly did the £30 million in transfer fee profit has gone Has it gone into helping keep the club operating in the Championship or to help plug the whole of the £80 million spend during the disastrous 2015/16 season?

Or, was it just to ensure the spreadsheets show Newcastle as being within a £13 million loss as stipulated by the EFL. That is the extreme limit of finances Newcastle have to be within this season to meet the financial fair play rules of the Football league or risk future transfer embargo’s if relegation were to happen again as was the case with QPR last time they gained promotion from the Championship.

Only time will tell. No one will know the real picture until the accounts for this season are published in April 2018 but my only question regarding this now is; just how does Mike Ashley plan to get these loans back?

More Mike Control?


Mike Ashley pictured at Griffin Park as Newcastle faced Brentford Town. [Image from The Evening Chronicle]
Mike Ashley pictured at Griffin Park as Newcastle faced Brentford Town. [Image from The Evening Chronicle]

The second major talking point of the transfer window came from the Daily Mirror. On January 14th, the newspaper reported that owner Mike Ashley had decided he was not overly happy with Newcastle United’s Summer recruitment after attending the games against Birmingham City and Brentford Town. The report follows that as a result, Ashley told managing Director Lee Charnley he wants the club to return to the previous recruitment policy.

We all know the recruitment policy, the stubborn policy where the club only pursue players aged 25 or younger so they can be sold on at a profit.

What do I make of it then?

I think there has to be some truth to this. In the past, Newcastle United would often release statements denying reports in the media if they were off the mark; even if it was a link to a player. The Evening Chronicle can bear testimony to that after receiving a Stadium ban.

A January transfer window with no investment, a further £33 million loan to the club and this. All three cannot be a coincidence. Though January is always a difficult month to do transfer business as noted by Rafa Benitez himself saying, ‘we have had some names, but “£20million”, “he’s not for sale” – then we have to move forward and look for another one.’

So, I am inclined to believe all three factors, as well as an internal belief within the club that Newcastle’s squad is good enough to get to the Premier League were behind the lack of transfer activity. While the proposed deadline day move for Andros Townsend could be interpreted as a bad deal with ridiculous add-ons or Mike Ashley tightening the purse strings indefinitely or even just until the summer; again, only time will tell.

Were Newcastle’s Summer transfers that bad?

dwight-gayle-newcastle-united-new-signing-shirt_3493252Dwight Gayle: £10 million was a slight overvaluation in my mind but 20 goals later and he’s certainly on his way to paying that off. While his chance taking has been wasteful at times and at others brilliant if his goals get Newcastle back to the promised land of the Premier League. HIT!

imagesMatt Ritchie: Ritchie has been a key part of Benitez’s plans this season and links up well with Jonjo Shelvey. £12 million might be a sum Mike Ashley did not expect to see spent this season but he’s contributing well to Newcastle’s season and therefore has to be seen as a HIT!

3B629A2F00000578-4034524-Newcastle_midfielder_Mohamed_Diame_refuses_to_celebrate_after_sc-a-2_1481751377654Mohamed Diame: Inconsistent but he’d started to come into his own before departing for the African Cup of Nations. Only just a HIT!

gamez signsJesus Gamez: at 31 years old, Jesus Gamez was brought in to provide more experience and depth at a right back position which had long been neglected by Newcastle United. His appearance times has ben limited to a handful of games which is frustrating. MISS!

selz 2Matz Sels: Started the season as number 1 but has seemed to struggle to adapt to English football; it just hasn’t happened for him yet. MISS!

isaac-hayden-celebrationsIsaac Hayden: £2.5 million looks a steal for what has become a dependable member of Rafa Benitez’s squad this season. HIT!

DeAndre Yedlin: The like for like replacement for Daryl Janmaat who left for Watford, Yedlin has been in and out of the squad and has done well going forward. Yes, he still has some progress to make when making the step up to the Premier League should Newcastle get there but there is promise there. Becoming a HIT!

hanleyGrant Hanley: Hanley has struggled since joining for £5.5million from Blackburn Rovers but he is a solid addition to the squad creating depth. MISS!

Ciaran Clark: Clark was a surprise signing from Aston Villa during the summer but he has since established himself firmly in the squad as one of the first-choice centre-backs. HIT!

lazaar-signsAchraf Lazaar: A meagre £3 million signing from Palermo but he has struggled to get a foothold into the squad consistently and the jury is still out on him. MISS!

daryl-murphyDaryl Murphy: Another surprising addition was 33-year-old Daryl Murphy from Ipswich Town. This one, I think is the deal Mike Ashley would not have been happy with. At 33, he cannot really be resold for profit but he could well have a key role to play in helping Newcastle gain promotion. Before January would have been a MISS but he has contributed greatly so would be worth it in my view!

Overall Verdict

With the exception of some of the summer recruits (most notably Jesus Gamez, Achraf Lazaar and Grant Hanley) have been disappointing for their inability to break into the first team picture consistently; Matz Sels has struggled as well, but the majority have been successful in getting Newcastle United into the position they are now!

The reports suggest Mike Ashley has or at least wants to revert back to the failed policy of buying young, promising players and sell them on for a profit.

People defend Mike Ashley saying he’s a business man. When you hear that, you assume this is a man of intelligence. So, why, would a man of intelligence decide he doesn’t like how one part of the club is operating so wants to go back to a policy that has not worked in the past in the hope of it working this time!

There were success stories of his policy. Yohan Cabaye came to Newcastle for £4.3 million in 2011. He was sold in 2014 for £19 million. A total profit of over 400%! Moussa Sissoko. Arrived in Newcastle for £1.5 million from Toulouse in 2013, sold in 2017 for £30 million; a 2,000% profit. Those two examples worked for Mike Ashley’s pocket but that is negated by a relegation and a policy of penny-pinching that often left Newcastle lagging behind teams they could easily be competing for.

As a whole, I have no issues with a buy young player policy. Far from it. I have an issue with the penny pinching and sticking to valuations and you’re going to end up nowhere in the transfer market. However, a football club needs a mixed playing squad. It needs a mix of youth and a mix of experience as without the leaders on the pitch to aid the young players, it just does not come together. That is what Mike Ashley and his Managing Director need to remember. I think it very ironic that the two games Mike Ashley did watch in January; the FA Cup tie at Birmingham City and the Championship game with Brentford; saw goals from two summer recruits and not one of them were younger than 25.

My message to Mike Ashley is this, keep a balance and keep your faith in Rafa Benitez. The man has won trophies in England, Spain and Italy. You should be blessing your cotton socks to have him managing your club and while he will not get everything right, you need to keep faith in the transfer market. For every Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso at Liverpool, there was an Andrey Voronin. He will get things wrong. The same can be said of your Chief Scout Graham Carr. For every Yohan Cabaye that turned out a healthy profit for the owner, there were plenty of flops who cost Newcastle money such as Emmanuel Riviere, Mapou Yanga Mbiwa or Remy Cabella because it just did not go well. Why go back to Carr after years of mediocrity after only one window of ‘Rafa wants, Rafa gets’.

Is the reported change in transfer policy intended to give Mike Ashley ore £50 notes than the lot he had on his publicised visit to Sports Direct HQ last year [Image from the Daily Mail]

Unless, Mike Ashley wants more fifties in his pocket…

Joking aside, by all means, if you want to prioritise these younger signings then fine. But, at the same time, you need to keep a healthy mix of experience and youth while not having your transfer policy public knowledge. Otherwise, you will see a constant stream of performances from players who do not have the motivation to play for Newcastle and thinking of their next pay deal elsewhere that we experienced for the past few years. Do not repeat the same mistake!

Does the Newcastle United Squad have the depth required?


This is the squad that Newcastle United have for the remainder of the season. Please note some players are named more than once for a position to reflect their versatility and where they have been used at different stages this season.

Goalkeepers: Karl Darlow, Matz Sels, Rob Elliott

Right-Backs: Vernon Anita, DeAndre Yedlin, Jesus Gamez, Jamie Sterry

Centre-backs: Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark, Chancel Mbemba, Grant Hanley, Curtis Good, Stuart Findlay

Left-Backs: Paul Dummett, Achraf Lazaar, Mossadio Haidara, Jesus Game

Defensive Central Midfielders: Isaac Hayden, Jack Colback, Vurnon Anita

Creative Central midfielders: Jonjo Shelvey

Right Wingers: Matt Ritchie, Christian Atsu, Sammy Ameobi

Left Wingers: Yoan Gouffran, Christian Atsu, Sammy Ameobi, Rolando Aarons, Yasin Ben El-Mhanni, Achraf Lazaar

Central attacking midfielders: Mohamed Diame, Ayoze Perez

Strikers: Dwight Gayle, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ayoze Perez, Daryl Murphy, Daniel Barlasaar

Overall, I think the squad still has sufficient depth in all but one area; creative midfielders. As we’ve seen when Jonjo Shelvey has been suspended, there is a lack of creative force in central areas of the pitch when he is absent. If Shelvey were to be sidelined for a long spell then there may be issues. However, though, there needs to be the investment in the summer where Benitez sees fit to further strengthen the squad to stay in the Premier League next season should Newcastle get there.

Enjoy the remainder of the season…

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