On 24 May 2015, Newcastle played the final match of the 2014/15 season with their future hanging in the balance.
It looked as though victory against West Ham was essential if Newcastle were to stay up – something which nobody had great faith in considering that in the previous 19 matches (under John Carver) United had only won three.
As it happened, West Ham were already (mentally) on the beach and they had a manager who had already packed his bags after his contract wasn’t renewed – the net result being a rare spirited Newcastle performance was enough to get us over the line.
Results elsewhere meant Newcastle would have stayed up regardless but the fact remained, the chaotic running of the club meant that survival had been taken to the very wire.
That game against the Hammers was preceded by a surprise TV appearance by Mike Ashley, promising that action would be taken to ensure that this would never happen again…
More money was spent in summer 2015 but the same shambolic, secretive Newcastle transfer policy was employed to oversee it. The power seemingly in the hands of Graham Carr and/or unseen characters working for the NUFC owner, another yes man Manager/Head Coach brought in who accepted he would have no say on either the positions that would be targeted or the characters who would be approached – the usual future value being the central theme yet again.
The result was that Newcastle spent over £50m on a 19 year old, two 20 year olds, a 22 year old and a 24 year old who all arrived from weaker leagues – Ivan Toney, Chancel Mbemba, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Florian Thauvin and Gini Wijnaldum.
The predictable disastrous results of this Newcastle transfer policy and employing Steve McClaren, led to some very necessary further investment in January.
This time it was a 23 year old, 24 year old, a 25 year old and a 28 year old on loan, two from the Premier League who desperately needed to leave theur clubs for different reasons and two further wildcards from abroad – step forward Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend, Henri Saivet and Seydou Doumbia.
When Rafa Benitez revealed his team and bench yesterday for the Norwich crunch match, it told us many things.
The actual team selection told us that regardless of what he may have said in public, he had obviously been very unhappy with how many players had performed against Sunderland – five changes to his team, most of them unforced. Those that did and didn’t make the bench also made interesting reading…
Newcastle desperately needed to rebuild quickly after last season’s relegation near miss, this is where we now find ourselves with the nine signings now that Rafa Benitez has had a good look at them….
Ivan Toney – On loan at Barnsley in League One, a relatively cheap buy and gamble, a longshot whether he will ever make it…in the Premier League anyway.
Chancel Mbemba – Started the Norwich game and against the weakest of all competition has been Newcastle’s best defender this season. Badly at fault for the first goal yesterday and not the finished article (though still looking a good signing longer term) – desperately needs an imposing and experienced quality defender alongside him.
Aleksandar Mitrovic – On the bench against Norwich. Came on and did well, scoring twice – undeniably a disappointment overall this season but big mitigating circumstances – can only improve and no normal club would have put such expectations on a 20 year old to single-handedly score the goals. The service to him over the season has been worse than appalling.
Florian Thauvin – Looks possibly the worst ever Graham Carr signing, despite stiff competition. From what we saw it appears hard to believe he can make it in the Premier League and has been shocking for Marseille since heading back there on loan.
Gini Wijnaldum – Started at Norwich but once again flatters to deceive. Has done OK but the four goals against Norwich at St James Park has diverted a lot of attention away from his anonymous showings in most matches – including pretty much every away game including yesterday. His big strength appears to be arriving in the box and finishing chances but in such a limited team those opportunities rarely arise – in a better team could potentially be much better.
Jonjo Shelvey – A good signing but with nobody to play alongside him it is far too much he is being asked to do, Cheick Tiote was the latest to disappoint alonside him yesterday.
Andros Townsend – A bit like Wijnaldum in terms of flattering to deceive. Clearly has talent and in flashes showed it against Norwich, very much like the Sunderland game – is maybe our only player who can beat a man and have a shot from distance – shows how limited the rest are. In January Newcastle needed players who could come straight in and do the job – always going to be tough for Townsend to do it when he had hadn’t played a full Premier League 90 minutes for two years.
Henri Saivet – A typical Graham Carr/Mike Ashley signing from Ligue 1, on the surface looks relatively cheap signing at £5m but will cost big time long-term – already looks a pointless signing and like many before him (Marveaux, Riviere, Obertan..) will be seeing out his five year contract having played next to no football and nobody else wanting him. Dropped totally from the squad against Norwich having seen every other midfielder used in front of him already in the middle of the pitch – Colback, Anita, Shelvey, Tiote, Wijnaldum etc.
Seydou Doumbia – Newcastle desperate for goals and so in January we bring in an experienced forward on loan, amid talk of contract triggers potentially preventing his selection and then walking out on his international squad – after only 29 minutes of football (and seeing even Gouffran and Riviere played ahead of him) for Newcastle so far, Doumbia was dropped altogether from the squad at Norwich.
No wonder Rafa Benitez is looking at the Newcastle transfer policy and thinking how can they have got it so wrong?
These nine signings costing over £80m have basically followed the same pattern of future value first and what the team needed very much second. Newcastle did not have time to mess about in the summer and certainly didn’t in January.
We needed a decent number of experienced battle-hardened players who could help turn things around. Not gambles on young players, most from weaker leagues, who were expected to hit the ground running and transform the first team picture.
Of the nine signings yesterday:
Two are out on loan – Toney and Thauvin
Two dropped from the squad – Saivet and Doumbia
One on the bench – Mitrovic
Four in the team – Mbemba, Wijnaldum, Townsend and Shelvey
I think if there were other options then at the minute maybe only Mbemba and Shelvey would have been sure of their places against Norwich.
Moving forward – the Manager has to be the key person choosing players and obviously we all hope that person is going to be Rafa Benitez.
The whole way the club is run has to chance, not just the Manager.
The Newcastle transfer policy is at the heart of the problems and sums up the clueless nature of Mike Ashley’s stewardship.
Must do better.