The need for an experienced striker on Tyneside is clear, 12 of this season’s 23 matches (***ED: Written and sent into The Mag before the Man Utd match, so bear in mind when reading) have ended with Steve McClaren’s team goalless. Despite creating chances, Newcastle have only seven goals in the last twelve games and zero in the last four.
The failure to secure a new number nine in the summer is the reason Newcastle are 18th in the league and out of both cups by the second week of January. With a new TV deal estimated to be worth between £99m and £150m a year starting in July, refusal to bolster McClaren’s attacking options would be financial suicide for owner Mike Ashley. Having lost a billion pounds (on paper) from his Sports Direct shareholding in the last five weeks, the Newcastle board need to act fast to safeguard the economic futures of both the owner and the club.
First, they need to forget the idea of signing Saido Berahino. The media have reported that the £18m summer bid for Berahino is ‘still on the table’. The highly-rated 22 year-old has already been called up to the England squad; with 20 goals in 45 games for West Brom last season, his talent and potential are unquestionable; he ticks every box of Ashley’s transfer blueprint. He would cost more than the others, but the bigger stage of St. James’ Park could be the perfect platform for Berahino’s career to take off.
That, in a nutshell, is why Berahino should be avoided at all costs: he would see Newcastle as a stepping stone. His unprofessional behaviour when denied a transfer to Tottenham in the summer is the red flag; the reality is that, whilst talented, he would start agitating for a move away from Tyneside within 18 months.
Newcastle need experience and character; introducing Berahino into the equation, especially at the prices quoted (at £18-22m, there would be little potential sell-on profit) and our current position in the table, would be detrimental to the club achieving its targets, in both the short and long terms. Furthermore, he only has three goals all season; he is not the answer to the Geordie goalscoring drought.
Given the severity of the damage relegation would bring, coupled with their failure in previous windows to leave McClaren with sufficient squad depth, the Newcastle board need to take drastic action to protect both themselves and the club. They need players who can thrive from day one, who can score goals immediately.
That’s why Newcastle should conclude deals for all three of Charlie Austin, Andy Carroll and Loic Remy as quickly as possible.
Charlie Austin has been linked with Newcastle for months; had an extra £3m been forthcoming in the summer, he would have spent the last six months firing us up the league.
His record over the last four years is 76 goals in 129 league matches, including 18 in 36 Premier League games for a club that were relegated. His loyalty to QPR shows he would benefit the dressing room environment; at 26, he could lead the Newcastle frontline for five or six years. Austin’s signing is a no-brainer; he would be half the price of Berahino and offers a stronger guarantee of goals, whilst also fitting McClaren’s current system perfectly.
Austin should replace Emmanuel Riviere, who has no future at Newcastle. Given the scale of Riviere’s failure on Tyneside, it might be that the club has to settle for loaning him out initially, although a permanent transfer somewhere, anywhere, would be ideal – perhaps back to France, where his reputation may not be as tarnished.
Loic Remy is currently contemplating a second loan switch to Newcastle. He has a career record of 103 goals in 278 games, including 14 in 26 during his previous spell on Tyneside – the majority resulting in Newcastle victories.
The finest frontman in black and white since the retirement of Alan Shearer, Remy’s pace, movement and predatory instincts would give Newcastle a massive edge over their rivals. Backed up by the talented-but raw Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic, Remy’s goals would almost guarantee Premiership football next season.
Remy is another no-brainer; on loan there is very little risk associated with his transfer, and his presence should guide Newcastle through the rest of this transitional year. He should replace Siem de Jong, who could be loaned back to Holland for six months to recover fitness and form. The Dutchman may still have a future at Newcastle, but the club cannot afford to nurture him through his recovery given their current status. Starved of games at Chelsea, the switch would enable Remy to force his way into France’s Euro 2016 squad. This transfer makes sense for all parties.
With 17 goals in 65 appearances during four injury-hit years at West Ham, Andy Carroll’s recent goals and fitness record is less impressive than Austin or Remy. However, Carroll has one thing the others do not: he has thrived under the unique pressure of being Newcastle number 9.
In the six months Carroll wore the iconic shirt, he scored 11 goals in 19 matches, including a hat-trick in the 6-0 destruction of Aston Villa – a team Newcastle failed to beat, at home, despite being the worst time in the Premiership by some distance.
What should also be remembered is the chances he created for Kevin Nolan; Georginio Wijnaldum would relish feeding off the England target-man. Few will forget how devastating Carroll was in the 5-1 victory over Sunderland – despite not getting on the scoresheet himself, he created two goals and got Titus Bramble sent off.
The arguments against Carroll are obvious – too expensive, too unfit and a liability off the pitch. However, the presence of Mitrovic, Perez and Austin would enable Carroll’s fitness to be managed, and his contract could be heavily incentivised in order to minimise the financial impact of any future injuries.
Since the failure of his big move to Liverpool, Carroll has shown increased maturity on and off the pitch and is entering the prime of his career. At five months older than Alan Shearer was when he returned home and with a similar style of play, Carroll could service Newcastle for 8-10 years; his transfer pays for itself.
Carroll should replace Papiss Cisse, who provides little to the team, who cannot be relied on fitness-wise and who is five years older. In the event a move to Russia, Turkey or the Middle East could not be finalised, Newcastle should bite the bullet and release Cisse from his contract; his time on Tyneside is over.
A triple-swoop for three strikers of the calibre of Remy, Austin and Carroll would build bridges with the terraces, would ensure Newcastle ended the season comfortably and would ignite the Steve McClaren era. For an initial outlay of around £35m, Newcastle would ensure their share of the TV bonanza.
Entering next season with a frontline of Austin, Carroll, Mitrovic, Perez and a peak-condition Siem de Jong enables Newcastle to push for Europe; it also allows wonderkid Adam Armstrong to continue his development on-loan, away from the weight of 50,000 hopes and dreams, refining his game before replacing de Jong in due course.
If the TV deal was maintained over the next five years, it would be worth between £500m and £750m to Newcastle; a figure which puts the initial cost into perspective. Newcastle would be fully-stocked for goals for a decade, with the foundations for a sustained challenge at winning a trophy, finishing in the top six and even pushing for the Champions League.
We know Ashley likes to buy them cheap then sell them high; by securing his frontline for the duration of the McClaren project, the goals provide the security for investment transfers – such as Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko and Henri Saivet – throughout the rest of the squad.
“Our ambitions are top 8 and a trophy. We’ve got the cart, now it’s time to bolt the horse.”
Radical solutions are required on Tyneside. It’s time for Mike Ashley to put his money where his mouth is and give Newcastle United the strikers they deserve.
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