Three wins in a week made it a much happier week than the previous ones in 2017 for Newcastle United and no doubt Rafa could breathe a little easier under his corset, as the points gap was extended to third place.
All three wins were comfortable in parts, NUFC were so much better than Brentford in the first half that not winning should never have been an option, likewise Birmingham didn’t even look like they wanted to win in the FA Cup at SJP and we could have had a cricket score against Rotherham.
An alternative view would be that the first sign of any pressure on our defence against Brentford, whilst Birmingham made us wobble more than Pep Guardiola´s bottom lip and Rotherham nearly made us pay for a lethargic start to the game by going a goal up.
All three games were personally a little pedestrian to watch, the Rotherham game was most memorable for Jonjo Shelvey out-sprinting an opponent in the second half but some good things have happened as well as the three wins and nine points.
(Caption for top photo – ‘Sign who you like, don’t worry about the money’)
I was particularly pleased to see Deandre Yedlin get a run at right-back. Defensively he weakens us slightly, Big Vurn has been a consistent performer this season and his injury was a real blow for the player who will probably leave in the summer, but Yedlin is much more of a threat going forward and that is definitely something the team needs when the opposition have all 11 men behind the ball from the first minute of the game.
Matt Ritchie also seems to have come back to a bit of form and looked like a decent number 10 later on in the game against Rotherham, certainly something for Rafa to think about as Diame is away, though Diame has probably had more of an influence on the team by being away than he is by being here.
We kept a clean sheet against Rotherham, a fragile one but one all the same and that should give the defence some confidence, Clark and Lascelles have been shaky recently.
The real bonus was the return of Jonjo Shelvey, though we could well lose him this week as he becomes Donald Trump´s Foreign Secretary. Shelvey is a proper ball player and we missed him more than any of the other injured or African Nations players over the past few weeks. Much of our lack of Plan B was discussed after defeats by Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn but it was perhaps more a case of having no Shelvey B than no Plan B.
‘Jonjo Shelvey: What´s a quarterback?’
The Sky Sports Sky Bet January Transfer Window would be the perfect time to change that and we have been rumoured to be trying to sign a Shelvey B. Henri Lansbury would have been a good fit if we´d wanted someone to behave like a complete knacker but we also needed someone who could play, so his transfer to Aston Villa for £3million is a match made in heaven if you ask me.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek at Chelsea and Fabian Delph at Man City were mooted but weren´t Shelvey B material for me, both are slightly different players than we needed. Whilst £20million Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney must be brilliant for that money, even though I have never heard of him, but James McCarthy at Everton seems to fit the bill. He´s not as good as Shelvey but he is, shall we say, available more and he is a similar sort of player.
The other player we have been heavily linked with is Andros Townsend and he would be an even better signing. I know it would taste a bit like taking an ex-girlfriend back after she´s dumped you, you´ve got your life back together and things haven´t worked out for her but that is where we are at the moment, more Beggars Wood than Hollywood.
Townsend left Newcastle in the summer claiming that the lure of PL football was just too hard to turn his back on but we all knew he was never going to get any better under Alan Pardew. Pards’ early job luck had long since run out at Palace and by the time Townsend arrived, Pardew was solely relying on his excuses to keep him in a job.
When Fat Sam took over there was nowhere to go for Andros, Allardyce just doesn´t do flair players. That the media are now saying it is unlikely that Townsend will return, must be down to money. Palace need the £13million to spend on circumventing the FA´s transfer regulations, NUFC presumably want a loan. And so for us, like every other club that isn´t Chinese, the window trundles on without much excitement.
Harry Redknapp hasn’t even been seen so there is obviously no money in it, apart from in Tom Ince’s right foot which Steve McClaren says is worth more than £8million. Our only business so far is to bring Jamie Sterry and Sammy Ameobi back from their respective loans.
NUFC wouldn’t be the same without an Ameobi, like coming home from work and the Kardashians is on the TV, you just know that it is all going to be ok.
‘The Ameobis celebrate Sammy’s 68th appearance’
One reason why we’ve done no business may be this week’s news of a potential return to our old transfer policy of buying young, or cheap, and bringing on.
The speculation was largely due to the presence of Fat Mike at the Brentford game, his second in succession after the FA Cup tie at Birmingham. The media have been full of themselves trying to drive a wedge between FM and Rafa and one thing is for sure, it would have to be a pretty strong wedge, neither of them had a diet at the top of their New Year Resolutions.
It is possible that Ashley went to those two matches because they were close to where he lives, down south and all that. It is also possible that after NUFC were shown to have made the second highest net profit of all European clubs in 2014/2015 (£43million), the FCB was keen to re-instate the transfer policy which put finance over football.
It’s a worrying turn of events if true, off the field that the club didn’t make a loss is good news, that the club is still massively in debt to Ashley while being profitable seems only to point to his selfishness, presumably it is earning him a tax break somewhere or other, if he pays any tax at all. On the pitch the policy is a disaster, the players see us a stepping stone because that is a mentality the club breeds and let’s not forget the main negative, we have been relegated twice in the decade Ashley has been in charge.
Rafa himself played down any rift between himself and the hierarchy and also said that as far as he was aware there had been no change in policy. And what of the policy itself? Well, it is unlikely that any manager is ever completely in charge of the buying and selling at any club.
Apart from the role players and agents play, which is where a lot of the real power is, all managers have to work within a budget and a structure: Klopp, Pochettino, Conte and Wenger, none of them have complete control, they all have to answer to someone.
So all in all, even if Fat Mike does want a return to our previously financially profitable transfer policy, it is likely that if Benitez doesn´t like the player then we won’t buy him, no matter how much of a bargain he is.
I hope that is true.