There can be fewer things more annoying for a football manager than making a marquee summer signing and then seeing him get injured just a matter of days later.
And then, to compound the misery, your club is embroiled in a pant-shredding relegation battle in which you are crying out for some extra quality in the final third of the pitch as you fight amongst the previously nailed on certainties.
In the case of Newcastle United’s new boy Siem De Jong, this wasn’t just any old injury, however: this was a torn thigh muscle that would see him sidelined until February. And on his return….well, the Dutchman suffered a collapsed lung that would rule him out for a further eight weeks and counting.
The manager that signed him, Alan Pardew, may have departed St James’ Park a long time ago, but his replacement John Carver would love to be able to call on the services of an attacker with both international and Champions League pedigree.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for De Jong; he made his long-awaited return to the fold in a recent defeat to Swansea, entering the field of play as a 74th minute substitute and firing a late consolation goal in that 2-3 loss. The player believes he needs to build his strength up a little more, so won’t be available for Saturday’s game at QPR, but hopes to be ok for West Ham at home on the final day of the season.
But is the Dutchman’s return a case of too little, too late for the Magpies? And what division will he be plying his trade in next season?
The De Jong Story
After breaking into the Ajax first team as a precocious teenager, De Jong would go on to represent his boyhood heroes more than 200 times, notching 63 goals along the way.
His highlights reel includes replacing Jan Vertonghen as club captain, helping his side to four successive Eredivisie titles, and scoring home and away against Manchester City in the Champions League. A call-up to the Holland squad followed shortly after.
Those performances naturally attracted the attention of many of Europe’s big names, so it was a bit of a coup for the Magpies when then boss Pardew managed to persuade De Jong to join his beleaguered side in England.
The silver fox had to shell out in excess of £6 million though – as well as a six-year contract – to secure his new signing, and he instantly rewarded the Dutch dangerman by installing him as one of the club’s vice captain.
A matter of weeks later and, well, you know the rest.
There has been little for Newcastle United fans to cheer about this season, and in truth it is mostly their side’s calamitous defensive frailties that have caused them to freefall head-first into a relegation dogfight (they have the second largest ‘goals against’ column in the league).
That, and Mike Ashley’s insistence on placing a coach rather than a manager in temporary charge – even if he is the (self-appointed) best coach in the league.
Even so, the Magpies have only scored 37 goals in 36 league games – and half of those have been knocked in by two players: Papiss Cisse and Ayoze Perez.
So it’s understandable for Newcastle fans to be thinking ‘what if’. What if De Jong had stayed fit? Would they still be in their current predicament, with such an attacking force around to create goals and finish them himself?
There are creative talents at St James’ Park already; Perez has looked lively in fits and starts, and Cisse is as natural a goalscorer as you will find. But they need a conductor, an orchestrator, somebody to act as the middle man: and De Jong is as natural a link-up man between midfield and attack as you will see.
The Geordie faithful will be hoping that they can get a full season out of him next term – and in the Premier League too, of course.