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Four Newcastle United summer transfer windows – How did spending match up to success or failure?

2 years ago

Despite recent defences of the ownership in some sections of the sports media continuing to crop up over recent weeks, few could argue that this summer at first look has not been the most successful transfer window for Newcastle United.

Equally, it could have been even worse. At the very least, the signings of Rondon and Muto have given us hope of improved attacking options. If you don’t think it could have been an even more barren summer, you might have a short memory, as past years have shown, poor transfer market dealings are unfortunately nothing new for us.

Just to be clear. The following is in no way a defence of the current ownership and the decisions taken at board level to not fully back Rafa Benitez. After an incredible performance to finish tenth, the Benitez genius alone improving our performance in the league, it is a disgrace that not more of his transfer targets were pursued properly.

Instead I am trying to discover, based on recent history, if a poor summer transfer window necessarily correlates with a disappointing campaign, and will now look at some of the other bad transfer windows and how the season that followed panned out.

Summer 2003

It always seems to be overlooked but I do believe the summer of 2003 was a major reason for Bobby Robson’s eventual departure from SJP.

It also shows the bizarreness of Freddy Shepherd’s chairmanship first hand, how he failed to up the ante in the transfer market when the side had finished 4th and 3rd  in back-to-back seasons in the premier league. He only began to increase the spending the following summer after a 5th place finish, at which point the seeds for a decline had already been sown. The need of “buy while your strong” was constantly ignored at his point by Shepherd, although fan opinion towards him at this point was not particularly prevalent either way.

It was a shame he waited until Souness was in charge before real money was thrown at the squad, even if Michael Owen and Albert Luque were ultimately disastrous signings, the intent was obvious. What could Robson have done with £30 million in the summer of 2003 to take forward a side that was genuinely not far away from a real tilt at the league, having flirted with the premier league title the previous season? Sadly we will never know.

Instead only one first team summer signing was made. Lee Bowyer on a free transfer. Bowyer actually had a half decent first season at NUFC, but clearly this was not the type of summer transfer window that was ever going to keep us amongst Europe’s elite. The very same summer Chelsea embarked on a huge period of spending courtesy of new owner Roman Abramovich. Whatever happened to him?

It does go to show how damaging effect one neglected summer transfer window can have. Fail to strengthen at your peril. Shame we never seem to learn.

Summer 2013

Ten years on, once again we failed to make multiple first team summer signings. This summer might come with a slight footnote, in that the previous January, spooked by the threat of relegation Mike Ashley had allowed Alan Pardew & Graham Carr to sign five first team players including Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko.

Considering United only confirmed survival on the penultimate weekend of the season though, it was still incredible that there were no permanent arrivals at St James’ before the 2013/14 season. Only Loic Remy on a season-long loan from relegated QPR gave a boost to the first team squad.

To make matters worse, Joe Kinnear was appointed as director of football, something my brain would much rather have me forget. Was “JFK” the real reason for a lack of signings? Possibly, but on the other hand I doubt if he was ever was that involved in the running of the club, more likely he was simply a chess piece for Ashley to have even more allies within the club management structure.

Again though, this awful transfer window did not really translate to a terrible season (although it did tail off in spectacular fashion after the January sale of Yohan Cabaye), we did finish a respectable 10th. The first half of the campaign, minus a bad start in the opening 2 games, was hugely enjoyable. We had some memorable wins against Chelsea, Spurs & Manchester United, and at the turn of the year genuinely looked like we might even challenge for a champions league place, the top six at least looked achievable.

And while Remy was the sole summer arrival, his performances alone made up for the original disappointment, he was outstanding for much of the campaign and finished as our top scorer.

Summer 2015

Perhaps the one true summer Mike Ashley delivered on the expected levels of investment. The only manager in recent Newcastle history he truly backed- Steve McClaren. Only us.

After the real scare of only surviving on the final day of the 2014/15 season, it is possible Ashley was jump scared into increasing the transfer budget and improving the squad to avoid a repeat of 2009. Gini Wijnaldum was an exciting buy at £14million and had a very good season in a poor squad.

Chancel Mbemba and Aleksandar Mitrovic were also positive looking buys, although interestingly none of our signings that summer are now at the club only 3 years down the line. It was the only time in the era of Mike Ashley’s ownership that four players were brought in for over £10,000,000. Yet as we all know this did not result in a good season on the pitch. Relegation to the Championship was confirmed in spite of two more expensive signings in the January window, in Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey. At least they proved to be decent investments. Perhaps this was the window that forced MA into the belief that serious transfer investment could not guarantee survival.

Summer 2007

Summer 2007 feels like a long time ago as eleven years probably should. For Toon fans it feels even longer.

We had a new owner and a new manager, neither are popular figures now obviously, but back then we gave both Ashley and Allardyce the benefit of the doubt. Both were doomed to fail after  an awful summer of recruitment in 2007. The likes of Cacapa, Rozenhal, Bartonm Geremi, Viduka and Alan Smith all arrived at SJP to great fanfare but failed to get anywhere near their respective reputations on the pitch.

All were also crucially on big wages, in truth the club paid over the top on nearly all of these signings, on transfer fess and/or wages. The austerity that has followed since, has been a big price to pay. Yet at the time of the deadline passing, most thought it looked like we had done some reasonably good transfer business. It looked like a new owner trying to make an impact.

The one thing Big Sam could never moan about in regards to his time at NUFC, was not being backed in the transfer market. Equally, I would not put it past him to find a way to have a good grumble.

At least we signed Jose Enrique who ended up giving us a few years of excellent service. In general though the summer of 2007 brought so much optimism to the club but delivered so little. We are arguably still feeling the knock-on effects now, as Ashley’s reign of austerity continues.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JackLaceySport


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