The story of Peter Withe arriving at Newcastle United is a remarkable one.
The tall striker was brilliant in the air and those who were watching back in the day, will remember the distinctive wrist sweatbands he wore.
Plus if you were in early enough like a teenage me – he used to come out for the warm-up and entertain with tricks, including running from the halfway line balancing the ball on his head.
The most remarkable part of the story though was that he was part of Brian Clough’s remarkable team that came from nowhere and won the First Division (now Premier League) in 1977/78 – but rather than stay there, he somehow signed for £225,000 for Newcastle United who had just been relegated!
My first derby match at Roker Park, it was Peter Withe who scored (a header obviously!) to earn Newcastle a point in a 1-1 draw in 1978.
After two years at St James Park, Newcastle had failed to get out of the second division and at the age of 29 was sold to Aston Villa for £500,000.
He was joint top scorer in the First Division as he picked up another league title winner’s medal in that first (1980/81) season at Villa, then only went and scored the winning goal in the next season’s European Cup final for Aston Villa.
Talk about dreams coming true.
Peter Withe doesn’t expect these kind of instant miracles at Newcastle but he does think they can take inspiration from Leicester City: ‘You have to get your scouts, they have to be top notch and they have to find the talent. Leicester City did it and now Newcastle United have to do the same thing.’
Leicester’s Premier League winning team owed much to the likes of Mahrez,Vardy, Fuchs, Albrighton and Simpson, signed for a combined £4m.
Whilst the brilliant Kante who Newcastle were repeatedly linked with, arrived at Leicester for a bargain £8m.
Claudio Ranieri was backed though with decent money as well, spending a total of £45m back in summer 2015, a net spend of around £37m.
Whilst Leicester City went on to win the league with inspired signings, Newcastle of course were heading the other way with not such inspired signings.
After only surviving relegation on the final day of the 2014/15 season at home to West Ham, Mike Ashley did at last allow money he’d been stockpiling at the club to be spent.
However, even though over £50m was spent that summer it was under the same ridiculous Graham Carr/Mike Ashley plan of all deals being done with future profit the most important thing.
So instead of a mixture of experience and younger players, Newcastle brought in two 20 year olds (Mbemba, Mitrovic) a 22 year old (Thauvin) and a 24 year old (Wijnaldum) to transform a relegation level side. Signing only young players from weak overseas leagues predictably backfired, Newcastle ending up in the Championship.
Graham Carr has now left, with now fans desperately hoping Mike Ashley will shortly follow.
Newcastle at last have the right manager, now we just need the right ambitious owners to back him and let him get on with the job.
Peter Withe speaking at The Stand’s Footbaaaall Show in Newcastle, as related by Mark Carruthers for the Shields Gazette:
“Rafa Benitez has done brilliantly, he is a very experienced manager.
“If they can keep him, give him a few bob in the transfer window and let him make a few signings, then there is no reason why they can’t kick on.
“They need consistency and if Rafa can bring that, there is no reason why they can’t survive in the Premier League.
“I think it’s always a risk that a club can be destablised when takeover talks happen.
“It happened at my old club Aston Villa, new owners came in and people wonder just how much they will change.
“It really has an effect on the club as a whole but the most important thing in a football club is what happens on the pitch, get it right on the pitch and everything goes right.
“I would like to think that the club, whether it’s the current owner, or a new owner, will carry it forward.
“They got promotion, and they did well to do that, but now they have to build.
“People talk about needing £50 million to spend, that’s nothing now sadly – look at Manchester United, they spent £89 million on one player.
“You have to get your scouts, they have to be top notch and they have to find the talent.
“Leicester City did it and now Newcastle United have to do the same thing.”