Mike Ashley is now back from holiday.
Many journalists reporting that this means things could now start to happen in the transfer window for Newcastle.
The even more optimistic (and even less credible) ones are claiming that his return to the UK will also then lead to a takeover of the club now moving forward.
Leaving the takeover to one side, it is signings that are essential in the coming days.
Newcastle are already 12 days into the January window, with Rafa guessing correctly back in December just what a struggle it was going to be yet again to get the Fat Controller to agree to any signings. The United boss saying last month that he ideally wanted all of his January signings in by 15 January (Monday!), or 20 January (next Saturday…) at the very very latest.
I am simply embarrassed for those journalists/newspapers who are happy to put up a story saying that Mike Ashley being out of the UK was some kind of a barrier to Newcastle going ahead and buying, or even loaning, any players in January.
Mike Ashley never meets up with Rafa Benitez, he doesn’t even come to any matches at St James Park, the last one being on the first day of the season when Tottenham visited.
So what difference is there between Ashley being on the end of a mobile phone wherever he was on holiday, compared to when he is sitting in the Orange Tree, or whichever pub it is in London, spewing into the fireplace?
Only two things will now give Rafa Benitez any chance of being backed to bring in good quality players, even on loan. Neither of those things are good.
Firstly, I think it would take Newcastle to lose to both Swansea and Manchester City and drop into the relegation zone (the only remaining (Premier League) game of the transfer window then being against Burnley on the night that the window closes).
Secondly, at least one serious injury to happen to a key player, which would rule him out for a minimum of most of the rest of the season.
History tells us that the only time Mike Ashley has allowed major spending to take place in January, is when relegation has threatened.
In January 2013 Newcastle signed the five French players, then in January 2016 you had the likes of Shelvey, Townsend, Saivet and Doumbia arriving.
It worked the first time as instant impact from both Sissoko and Gouffran helped keep Newcastle up – but in 2015/16 it wasn’t enough and the team still went done.
Newcastle picked up seven points from nine in the three relegation clashes over the festive period. If that had been only one point and Newcastle were now a little bit cut adrift on 16 points with West Brom and Swansea, then I think Rafa would have been allowed to sign at least one player by now.
However, Mike Ashley is happy to gamble. I think Newcastle deserved to beat both Stoke and West Ham but in each of those games it could easily have gone the other way – for example if the Hammers had scored their penalty and if Stoke had scored whilst Newcastle were wasting chance after chance, even in the final minutes Darlow made two stunning saves that prevented what would have been an undeserved home win.
These are the very small margins we are dealing with and Ashley is happy to gamble.
Thee reality is that Newcastle are still only two points above the drop, the 13th place a bit of a false sense of reassurance, although I bet Ashley convinces himself things look far more positive than they are in reality.
Newcastle have a very tough run in to the season but I can guarantee you, if Newcastle beat Swansea tomorrow and move on to 25 points from 23 games played, Rafa Benitez will definitely not be signing anybody he really wants.
If he did somehow end up speaking to him, Mike Ashley would simply tell Rafa Benitez to shut up, as Ashley’s minions told the manager to do back in the summer when he was complaining that Ashley wasn’t keeping his transfer promises.
With the table so tight, Newcastle could even end up in 10th position after the weekend if beating Swansea and the other results go our way.
The owner would only be seeing that NUFC were in the top half of the table and conveniently ignoring it is Manchester City up next and not every long ago the season looked to be falling apart, with only one point from nine games.
Good clubs invest in the squad when they are on the up or even just a little bit of momentum, to Mike Ashley he just sees it as money down the drain and why spend anything when he might just dodge relegation without it this time.
Life at Newcastle United is a constant gamble but there aren’t many thrills involved.