The January transfer window is now seen as a last chance saloon by many/most Newcastle fans.
The last four windows have seen Mike Ashley fail to properly back Rafa Benitez, leading the manager to refuse to consider a contract extension unless things change.
That latest window easily the worst of all, the third window since returning to the Premier League and a £20m+ profit showing on deals in and out, whilst all of Newcastle’s rivals showed far more ambition.
Two weeks ago Rafa Benitez opened up a lot more than he had done previously when talking about his future, pointing towards the January 2019 window as Mike Ashley’s last chance to convince him to stay
“All the things that have happened during the summer have to be forgotten [and concentrate on the football now].
“Then we can talk about that [new contract], maybe, in April.
“We have plenty of time to talk.
“We have to concentrate [now] on what we can have an influence on, and that is the team and preparation for games, and whatever.
“We can talk about January and what is going on, but after January…
“Have we done what we had to do or not?
Then you have more answers to your questions [about my future].
“But I think now it’s too early.”
Monday morning has seen an update from the Chronicle about this January 2019 transfer window.
The local paper claiming Rafa Benitez wants a left-back, midfielder and striker.
It really is groundhog day, the same key positions where Rafa Benitez is left short, especially when it comes to spending money up front and signing a left-back who can challenge Paul Dummett and give us an option of one who can also get up the pitch and help the team to attack, especially against weaker teams.
The Chronicle say that they understand Rafa Benitez has held discussions with he head of recruitment Steve Nickson about possible signings in January BUT no news so far on Mike Ashley changing his backing for the manager, meaning loan deals might be once again the best Rafa can hope for.
The newspaper hope for some signs of positivity and wonder whether talking about the January window options now, might give some hope that Rafa could stay on in terms of it being longer-term planning.
However, going by this summer 2018 window that just passed, it indicated anything but long-term planning and hopes Rafa Benitez was planning to stay.
The window saw two loan signings (Rondon and Kenedy), two 29 year olds (Ki and Fernandez) on only two year contracts, whilst first team regular turns 32 next June when his current deal runs out and no sign of a new one offered as yet.
Without getting into the arguments of whether it was a positive or negative that they left, it has to be noted that Newcastle sold a 22 year old (Merino) and 23 year old (Mitrovic) for a combined £32m (which could eventually rise to £36m.
Players come and go all the time of course at any club but anybody looking from the outside wouldn’t have seen Newcastle’s summer trading as one that was looking to build towards the future. Instead it very much looked like the opposite, a short-term attempt to try and survive this season on a very limited budget.
You always hope for the best but fear the worst with Mike Ashley and it is very difficult to see great ambition being shown in January, and as for being able to forward plan, even if money was going to be available it is always hard to forecast who will be available in that mid-season window, as much always depends on how that first half of the season has gone for both teams and individual players.
Putting my positive head on, the very best I could see potentially happening in January (apart from Ashley leaving which would be very much the dream scenario above all others), would be maybe Rafa allowed to bring in a couple of better quality players on loan with a solid option to buy them next summer, with also Kenedy picking up form and some arrangement made for him to be a permanent buy.
Much no doubt will depend on the league position at the time but then last January Newcastle were right in the thick of relegation trouble yet Ashley refused to allow and players to be bought, so why would he see things any differently this time?