After another depressing week at Newcastle United and as we approach the January transfer window, the club is in depressingly familiar territory despite the outlay of more than £50m in the summer.
A lot of the talk is how Newcastle United need to go out and spend big again to avoid the dreaded relegation and the financial implications that follows, in what is being called the season that you simply can’t get relegated.
Is it that easy to bring in the required quality in January? Where should the club be looking for new recruits, or is it too late and is this situation a consequence of years of bad buying and business in the transfer market?
After the defeat to Sunderland at the stadium of light last season, then manager/head coach John Carver spoke of there being something wrong with the “DNA” of his Newcastle United team.
Many people took this to mean that there was a lack of character or a lack of leadership but also that there was a lack of understanding of the importance of the derby for the fans and an understanding of the club and the city within the team.
This current Newcastle squad have now added one more derby defeat to this woeful record, even though they played much better this season than in previous campaigns the result was still the same. On top of this there have been a number of performances this season where anybody who has watched the games will notice a lack of leadership, effort and an ability to get the basics correct.
Carver and Pardew before him were both apparently extremely concerned with the lack of British born players within the squad and felt that this needed to be addressed in future transfer windows by the club. This was highlighted by Carver’s eleven Jack Colbacks comment last season and since moving to Palace, Pardew has seemed to have a lot more control of transfers and Cabaye apart, there seems to be a very British feel to his squad additions.
However, at St James Park, this situation has not been addressed in the summer and again players were brought in from overseas, so Newcastle fans now find themselves asking the same questions, just with a different manager.
Newcastle of course have always looked for the best possible value in the transfer market, with mixed success as they along with many other clubs believe in a lack of value in the British market. There is no doubt in my mind that the four major signings last summer were from Graham Carr’s scouting list and he seemed to have got his first choice players in.
Out of the players bought last summer, only Wijnaldum could be considered a success so far, with some promise shown by Mitrovic and Mbemba, with Thauvin not impressing whatsoever. Many people are now saying it and the noise coming out of the club is that the current manager is in agreement in that Newcastle should be looking a bit closer to home for new additions. This will enable them to improve the problems that Carver spoke about last season and are obviously still playing a part in under-achieving performances this season.
I believe the club is aware of the importance of bringing British players into the squad and McClaren himself has stated that it is something that needs to be addressed in the next few windows. Although this has been in place for a while now the importance of this is increased with the homegrown player’s rules which are stated as:
Clubs must include eight home-grown players out of a squad of 25.
A home-grown player will be defined as one who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the Season during which he turns 21).
Newcastle seem to be lacking in these numbers from regular starters in the premier league, Tim Krul and Jack Colback would qualify, as would players such as Rolando Aarons, Steven Taylor and Paul Dummett, along with Jamel Lascelles and Karl Darlow. Then there are promising youngsters who would also qualify in years to come, such as Adam Armstrong, Ivan Toney and Freddie Woodman who are out on loan to gain experience. However, it is obvious that the club need to keep an eye on this situation in the future.
Many managers bemoan the fact that British players are not value for money and therefore they prefer to shop in the overseas markets such as France and Holland. There has been no bigger example of this recently than Newcastle, but other clubs seem to be following the trend, even Tim Sherwood when he was at Villa – who was hailed as a developer of British talent – came out and said so when discussing Villa’s summer transfers.
One of the reasons for the extra expense when buying British players is clubs have an eye on the homegrown quota at their club and if they do have a player who qualifies and who is playing regularly in their first team, they are understandably very reluctant to let them go. The huge fees being offered for the likes of Raheem Sterling, John Stones and Saido Berahino, shows the importance of homegrown players to the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea.
No doubt one of the main reasons behind Fabian Delph’s transfer from Villa and Patrick Roberts transfer from Fulham to Manchester City, were because the club are really struggling to get the required numbers in this area, both now and when planning for the future. Paul Pogba also qualifies as homegrown after his spell at Manchester United and despite the fact he is a truly world class midfielder, the homegrown status will also add huge appeal to any British club that can afford or attract him.
So many clubs, including Newcastle, will say the market is overpriced and focus their attention on areas such as France, Holland and Belgium where good value deals can be done without breaking the bank.
I however, believe that with a decent scouting network and a club being prepared to take a punt here and there, then some bargains are to be had in the British market. Newcastle need to be ready to act swiftly when these deals arise, as all too often in the past they have missed an opportunity through dawdling when the deal was up for grabs. In future they need to be more decisive in the transfer market and really go after a player and show him that the club really wants him.
This was the case with Delle Alli when signing from MK Dons to Spurs, at least Newcastle were in for him and tried to get him to the club, but ultimately they failed. If Newcastle had acted with more desire and made MK Dons a firm and realistic bid for the player, before Spurs entered the race, then England’s new rising star could have easily been playing in midfield at St James Park instead of White Hart Lane.
I think there needs to be much more of an effort made to get these types of players into the club who can then immediately challenge for a first team place.
There are some transfers that happen in football and fans all over the country are thinking to themselves, why were we not in for him?
Joe Gomez from Charlton to Liverpool for £3.5m was one where I had this exact thought and at that price I was astounded no other clubs challenged Liverpool for his signature. Kieran Trippier for the same price from Burnley to Spurs was another where I was scratching my head after an impressive first season in the premier league.
Going further back over the last few seasons I couldn’t believe it when no other clubs challenged Norwich City for Nathan Redmond for £2m from Birmingham or Eric Dier signing from Sporting Lisbon to Spurs for £4m, or even Aaron Cresswell from Ipswich to West Ham for £5m.
Of course many of these players may not want to go to Newcastle and other clubs may win the transfer battle but Newcastle should be at least throwing their hat into the ring. Of course it is also easy to pick out a top emerging talent like Alli or Dier when they are performing well in the premier league for top clubs but the trick for Newcastle is to target and purchase the players before other clubs become interested.
Newcastle were apparently in for Mason Holgate for between £1m –£2m but instead he ended up joining Everton last summer. Will this be a situation of regret for not offering a bit more such as £3m or £4m? Therefore taking a risk on when the player develops and follows the same path as another young Barnsley defender who joined Everton for around £3m a few seasons ago and this summer was the subject of a £40m bid from Chelsea.
There are also two sides to the story and for every Raheem Sterling and John Stones there are a number of players with huge potential who have simply failed to make the grade at the top level. Often they end up playing in lesser leagues overseas or in the lower divisions in England, such as John Bostock, Michael Woods or Josh McEachran.
We even had a couple ourselves in the likes of Ben Tozer or Aaron Spear (remember them?).
Maybe Mike Ashley and the football board are wary of this and feel that these players aren’t worth the risk. The fact is though that even if these players don’t develop into what is hoped of them, the chances are they can still be sold back to the championship or lower leagues for a decent return fee and recoup a lot of the initial outlay, along with the lower wages being offered it is in fact a relatively risk free strategy, especially if the numbers being paid are below the £5m mark.
The rewards that are potentially on offer and what a player could be worth if he does develop and progress, such as Sterling and Stones or Alli, and you would think that this would be an area that Mike Ashley is prepared to take a bit of a punt on with a few bids here and there.
I personally believe the solution is for Newcastle to continue to attempt to bring in top class players and full internationals from any nation, players that will walk straight into the first team and are a step up in their positions than the players we currently have. However, around this group the club needs to stop looking for bargain basement players from the continent or players who don’t appear regularly for their country and are simply not good enough for premier league football.
Instead the should focus their scouting on young British players who can come into the club and maybe not instantly command a first team place but add serious competition for places and develop under the current coaching team.
Hopefully recent discussions between the football board will mean that the club will focus on supplementing Carr’s preferred signings with players being bought from in and around the championship where Steve McClaren has knowledge and recently worked.
An example on where the club could be looking is a report that suggests that Demarai Gray has a £4.7m buy-out clause from Birmingham; I simply fail to see the risk associated with this type of transfer and can’t understand why more clubs aren’t in for him.
In the past Newcastle have been linked with players such as Lewis Dunk and Sam Byram, both players McClaren seems to know well from the championship and both play in positions (centre back and right back) many believe we still need to add depth and strengthen in. They would represent a far better balance to the squad than having players such as Marveaux, Gouffran, Obertan etc who have been doing little more than blocking the path for other younger players with potential over the last couple of seasons.
By tweaking their transfer approach, Newcastle really could still target good value top international players such as Wijnaldum, but also tap into McClaren’s knowledge of the lower leagues and enable Newcastle United to have a British core and a British identity going forward, with the added sprinkling of top, rather than mediocre, foreign players who can light up the league.
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