Looking back to this time period two years ago and the Newcastle United 2012 squad, I remember things were going very well. We had just comprehensively beaten Manchester United and were also in the 4th Round of the FA Cup.
In the summer we had been bolstered by the signing of a new full back, midfielder and striker (Santon, Cabaye and Ba) and were destined to sign Cisse to push for a European place in the January transfer window to take season spending to above £20m.
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This was all achieved despite selling Jose Enrique, Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton, which at the time I thought a bit perplexing, as we could have done with all of them competing for places and would have put to bed any comments from the Manager about lack of squad depth, or tiredness.
This is where the club makes a rod for its own back and in particular makes Mike Ashley look inept and the Manager foolish. It also puts Joe Kinnear in the nonentity bracket.
The transfer policy that is in place is contradictory at best – sign them young and cheap, keep them for a few years, appreciate in value and sell them on. The flaw with this plan is a) As a football club, you are a competitive entity, if you don’t keep improving, you stand still or go backwards and b) if you do too much of (a) the assets depreciate rather than the opposite. Like the chicken and egg scenario but with finance and professional footballers.
That brings me to the questions. Has this Newcastle side peaked? Can it evolve any more with a signing or two, or will it need a major overhaul? Has the Manager reached his level? Is any of the above relevant while Mike Ashley is owner of the club?
In January or the Summer (depending on if you believe that this season is now over under Mission Accomplished Mike), the squad needs a fresh input and I can’t see the point of doing it in this transfer window because the club will have to do it all again in the Summer. Again, that’s based on the season now been over in the club’s mind if not the supporters.
Either way, my assumption is that the side peaked in that 3-0 win over Man Utd, the players are now two years older, the squad hasn’t been added to in sufficient quantity or quality and the Manager can get the side functioning well, but only if the planets are in correct alignment and the Gods favour him well – no margin for error.
The Mike Ashley question has been covered by all and sundry and is the one factor that won’t change unless the man himself gets sick.
With TV money rolling into the club, nay his bank account, regardless of the outlay, the reality is, going for a European place is out, taking a punt at a cup (which gets a European place and a trophy) is out, mediocrity is on the menu for as far as the eye can see.