It’s that time of the year again when every Tom (Ince & Cleverley) Dick (Richard, Micah) and Harry (Kane…I wish!) gets linked with Newcastle United.
With a dip in form over the last few weeks a lot of fans are pleading for new signings to ‘save’ the Toon’s season, despite the team still sitting in one of the two automatic promotion places.
At a club like Newcastle there appears to be no middle ground – we’re either promotion certainties after a half-decent win, or relegation fodder when we lose by a late goal.
I can’t quite put my finger on when this ‘black and white’ point of view began but having witnessed Bill McGarry’s United team that topped the old Second Division at Christmas 1979, before a horrendous start to the new decade saw them collapse – I believe there’s no need to panic just yet.
One of the pivotal moments that contributed to the McGarry team’s implosion was a bad injury to Newcastle’s main playmaker, Republic of Ireland international Mick ‘Zico’ Martin, which was to keep him out of action for the rest of the season.
The central midfield player made the team tick and actually became a better player in the eyes of many supporters during his enforced absence.
Without him to pull the strings the Toon just couldn’t seem to buy a win and after a demoralising meltdown they eventually finished in 9th position
Notice any similarities?
There’s no disputing that just like Martin was in ’79, Jonjo Shelvey is our most creative midfield player and relying on him as we have been doing, it’s not surprising that results would suffer without him on the pitch.
The difference is that McGarry’s team lost their man for the season and failed to replace him, ultimately costing the side promotion and the manager his job.
Rafa’s 2017 team however, will soon have their own talisman back from his suspension on the pitch where he belongs and looking to make up for lost time.
Forget the ‘glass half empty’ outlook and with it the demands to splash out inflated fees on players who probably wouldn’t be an upgrade on what’s already at St James Park.
Let’s look on the positive side. We’re still second in the league. Shelvey’s on his way back and we still have to take on Brighton away, where with all cylinders firing we can knock the Seagulls off their perch.
In the meantime, if the right player – or players – become available during the January window that’s a bonus, but if no signings are forthcoming there’s no need to panic.
So let’s hold our nerve, keep our powder dry and then once promotion is assured, that’s the time for Mike Ashley’s cheque book to come out.