Newcastle hasn’t moved. It hasn’t got colder, or become an awful place to live. Especially if you’re a footballer.
It’s the same city, which, despite a wife who apparently wasn’t that keen, attracted David Ginola. It’s the same city that welcomed all those idolised players from London, who apparently, we will take an instant dislike to as, apparently, we don’t like London. No, we just like Newcastle more.
It is, after all, the same city that brought the first South American footballers to play in Britain.
Newcastle United, now that’s a different story. In the last ten years, while the city has grown ever more attractive, the club has been sold, bought, sold out, souled out, and shredded. We’ve been relegated, twice, and struggled for yonks. There have been signs of a rebirth, but while birth is nature’s miracle, it’s also a bit messy.
So given the chance, why would we still love to play for Newcastle United?
It’s not looking very likely for me. I can run around for ages, and the lads from work reckon this is my key footballing strength. I’ll happily go and get the ball when I regularly miskick it and hoof it onto the balcony reserved for watching basketball in the school gym. My agent informs me that Rafa does not have me on his radar. I say agent, I mean 1571 phone message service.
Like you, I can think of dozens of reasons to come to Newcastle.
Fans who will give you a chance, and if they see a bit of talent and effort, will support you. A city with vibrant night life, pivotal history, stunning architecture, trendy shops… we can all think of compelling arguments to sign up to our proud region.
So what’s the problem? Why haven’t we got players queuing from the ducks at the Exhibition Park to The Strawberry to sign for us? I’m pleased we’ve signed Jacob Murphy and Javier Manquillo, but we haven’t really been setting page 300 of Ceefax alight, have we?
Last week we had an interesting article suggesting a few good reasons why we haven’t signed the raft of players many believe are needed to stay up. For what it’s worth, I think we’ll need a few more players, too. Our squad is thin. Very thin. Our options are a bit limited, and plan B is basically to play better, or not pass to Jack Colback.
Well, I’m pretty sure it’s not because of our manager. Most of the reasons for away fans thinking we would be promoted were because of Rafa. He might be pragmatic, and it might not be pretty, but his reputation is strong.
Driving back from Leeds a few weeks ago, I thought it might be because driving back from the nearest big city in England took nearly two hours. Yet this never stopped Robert Lee and his famous geographical understanding.
It’s not us. We know exactly who it is.
I can remember a hundred years ago when my mam went nuts at no one in particular when the price of a bag of chips at West Denton chip shop went up to 21 pence. There was a lot of harummphing, but thankfully, she paid the lady and I ate my chips.
My mam paid because she suddenly realised that chips were now more expensive and there wasn’t much she could do about it, other than make sure she got her money’s worth out of the salt and vinegar.
There is no point in Lee Charnley and his band trying to bargain out every player. Economics and common sense shows that if you know your customers have loads of money, and the market has inflated the price of goods, the customer will pay.
I don’t want a ten million pound player to cost fifteen. But they do. While we’re haggling, we’re taking ages to sign anyone. Inside Charnley and Ashley’s heads, it must still be 2010. But they need to accept that footballers cost more money. And the feeble lack of ambition is not indicative of the fans, of Rafa, and the city.
A deal isn’t the basic price of the player. The club could and should benefit in other ways, with sell on clauses being just one part of negotiations.
There must be more to the deals being made than we know about, and there must be a way in which we and the player, and the multitude of beneficiaries can gain. A bit like my mam and the salt and vinegar on the extortionate chips.
It has been suggested by some that transfer negotiations are out of the skills and experience of our current owners, and it certainly looks that way. Even if Newcastle United is perceived to be a stepping stone –and while I’d rather we weren’t seen as such, I’m being realistic – we should be able to use that as a lever in negotiations. We have, like a lot of other clubs who have a year’s extra supply of TV money than us, potential. We have a manager with a reputation; play for us, and you could become a better footballer.
Newcastle hasn’t changed, but football business has.
We can only assume that our bargaining chips are being used, just not very well.
So here’s an idea, and it’s not a new one: we need someone who can actually make these negotiations and make them sound attractive. Could it be time to have one of our former players employed to do this? Someone respected by current players, agents, and who will not turn into a Cashley mouthpiece without making it obvious to the rest of the football world?
I’m convinced this person must exist. But who is it?
You can follow the author on Twitter @georgestainsby
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])