Few people in the world of football could have predicted that dropping down to the Championship would bring about the greatest feeling of optimism Newcastle United has had for a long time.
Yet, as the transfer window creaked to a close last night, no one could have labelled the magpies’ business as anything other than astute.
Compare this with United’s transfer window dealings of the not-too-distant past and it is easy to see why, comparatively, Newcastle fans are much happier with the state of their club now, despite it competing in a tier below their expectations.
Rafa Benitez’ demands to have full control over comings and goings has seen Newcastle make the most of the opportunity to clear out dead wood, those with the wrong attitudes and others simply not good enough, and bring in the types of players who should be at the club; those wanting to fight for the cause, with the skill and ability to do so.
It is in stark contrast to Mike Ashley’s last minute helicopter sabotage missions, or customary token bids for players like Charles N’Zogbia, thrown out at a whim to create the illusion of effort. No, this has been a window in which Newcastle have properly addressed problems and concerns and sorted them out accordingly.
This strategic planning is something that has been lacking under the head coach era and it is proof of why the footballing affairs of the club need to be handled by people who understand the game. Hopefully this penny has dropped for the owner and gone now are the days of bringing in one or two affordable youngsters from France who fit a remit designed to bring the club (hoped for) profit rather than success.
The last of these stepping stone players departed late into deadline day, with Moussa Sissoko heading for Tottenham Hotspur, and it was refreshing to see Newcastle on the calmer side of the melee, holding all the cards and choosing only to play when it suited them best.
The Frenchman’s departure hopefully signals the end of an era of shoddy business carried out by those whose brains are geared more towards bringing in financial rewards than trophies.
Some will be quick to raise the point that a few questionable signings have been made, with Daryl Murphy’s career past its peak and defenders Ciaran Clark and Grant Hanley arriving with unconvincing reputations from their former clubs’ supporters.
Nevertheless, the squad is undoubtedly stronger and, whilst they may not be the most glamorous signings, Newcastle are not currently in a position to attract the world’s best and in this case of horses for causes, the magpies seem to have curated a good mix of championship thoroughbreds and those able to do the donkey work.
How similar the squad will be should Newcastle get promotion is a problem that does not yet need addressing.
For now, the hard work needs to be done to ensure that the magpies reach that predicament and four wins in a row suggests that the effort is being applied. However, the twists and turns of a long season are still to unfurl before the toon army and life for Newcastle United is rarely straightforward.
All on Tyneside will just be hoping that Benitez’ steady ship sails on, avoiding the storms and maelstroms that life as Newcastle manager usually throws up, to take the club back up to the league where it really ought to be – but with Newcastle United you can never really tell what’s going to come next.