For those of you lucky enough to have seen the film Moneyball, you’ll know that it begins with much maligned GM Billy Beane losing his three best players. For those of you who haven’t seen it, where have you been?
Alan Pardew had his own ‘Moneyball’ moment at the start of this year. For one reason or another, Pardew lost 4 key players from his side; Carroll, Nolan, Barton and Enrique. An important core of the team had just vanished before his cockney eyes and new players had to be brought in.
So Pardew set about his task, adding on Cabaye, Ba, Cisse, Santon and signing Ben Arfa on a permanent deal. These players, coupled with a tenacious Tiote in midfield, a much improved Coloccini and a Mr.Tickle-esque Krul in goal, have formed one of the most consistent sides in the Premier League.
Football has a great many more variations than baseball, which makes picking up players that can build a championship winning team on the cheap very difficult indeed. However, with the help of chief scout Graham Carr, he has picked up some very impressive players on a shoestring budget. Cabaye, a £4.5m signing from Lille, a double medal winner and French international, would have arguably been the buy of the season were it not for the signing of striker Demba Ba. Signings like that make the buys of Dzeko (£27m) and Torres (£50m) seem laughable.
The management style of Pardew has also brought the best out of the hugely talented Hatem Ben Arfa, whose performances after January have been spellbinding, and contributed to the 6 match winning streak that Newcastle went on.
Where Newcastle begins to differ from the Oklahoma A’s is that the Magpies have yet to win anything, though they are on the brink on European football. Ask any journalist at the start of the season if the Toon would be challenging for a top 4 spot with 3 games to go and they would have laughed in your face.
Newcastle needs to continue to grow and to do that they need to keep their stars. The plan now should be to stop Mike Ashley, the Ebeneezer Scrooge of football, from selling a Cabaye or Tiote as soon as he gets the whiff of a fat cheque. Hard headed businessman he may be, interested in Newcastle’s long-term future he is not.