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I’m not forgiving Mike Ashley but good to see showing interest in protecting his investment

2 years ago

Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Jamal Lewis are now Newcastle players.

Hands up if on Friday you were certain that would be the case before Tuesday ended?

My hands are firmly planted in my pockets.

I was fairly confident of Wilson after hearing he didn’t want to join Villa.

Fraser was a bit weird as he’d supposedly agreed terms but hadn’t signed.

I thought there might be a Loic Remy type incident and he’d get diverted en route to sign for some London club of the Crystal Palace or West Ham ilk.

We’d been linked with Jamal Lewis but he was still away on international duty and so I thought that there would be no quick conclusion to that story.

To get all three for circa £35 million is fantastic business. It’s not quite the raft of superstar players we were linked with at the start of the summer but, for our level, they are competitive and promising signings.

You might also notice that each of these three are full internationals for different UK nations so there’s still space to get Bale in as our Welsh representation.

Every year I write an article about which players Newcastle United could target from relegated teams. I’ve been doing it since 2014 and, for the first two years, we didn’t target that market at all.

Lots of people ask, why would you sign a player who’s been part of a team that went down? The answer is, because being in a relegated team doesn’t automatically make you a bad player.

There are plenty of examples of quality players being pinched from sinking ships. Just look at our last relegation season. Sissoko and Wijnaldum played each other in a Champions League final three years after being signed from NUFC when we went down. Players like Andy Robertson and Adama Traore have been relegated twice and not many clubs would turn their nose up at signing either of them. Ba, Remy and Rondon all came to us from relegated sides and were massive players for us in their brief stints at the club.

In 2016 we signed Ciaran Clark from our partners-in-relegation, Aston Villa. Since then, it looks like relegated players have become more prominent in our transfer dealings. We’ve signed an additional six relegated players in the last three years alone. Federico Fernandez, Ki Sung-Yeung, Salomon Rondon, Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Jamal Lewis all coming in to make it seven in five summer windows.

The only player that I’d ever highlighted in any of my Raid The Relegated articles, that went on to be purchased, is Salomon Rondon. But now both Wilson and Fraser are in to make it three in three summers.

I think Wilson is a cracking signing and, believe it or not, I would have been quite happy with him even if the takeover had occurred. I think we would have had to build steadily, even with the extra cash, and Wilson is a man that presents great value at £20million. With a good supply line, he’ll get goals.

Steve Bruce has to prove himself this season and steer clear of the ultra-negative tactics. If we set up right and have Fraser on one side, ASM on the other and Almiron in the hole, I think Wilson could see plenty of chances coming his way. He’s a massive upgrade on anyone we’ve got and knows his way around the Premier League.

Since I stopped going to Newcastle games, I’ve diverted my attention to England instead, attending eleven games since September 2018 and witnessing Callum Wilson’s debut goal for his country first hand. He’s a canny player and an excellent bit of business.

In my Raid The Relegated article this year, I highlighted Fraser as one I would have included. However, he was technically not a relegated player as his contract had expired before Bournemouth were confirmed as relegated. I also mentioned the fact he had refused to sign a short-term extension and questioned whether we wanted a player like that in our team. I’m still not sure if I like the fact that he abandoned a team he’d spent seven years with, when they needed him most. But he’s a Newcastle player now and an exciting one at that.

In the 18/19 season he scored seven goals, picked up 14 assists and played 93 key passes in the Premier League! He was second for assists only to Hazard and third for key passes behind Maddison and Hazard. He’s got pace to burn and gives us a natural option on the left wing. Last season was less impressive, but I think he needed a new challenge and he’s definitely got a lot of ability. Again though, onus is on Bruce to give him the licence to get forward and do what he can do.

Jamal Lewis had a good first Premier League season with Norwich. He will give us a natural attacking option on the left and it will be interesting to see how he combines with Fraser. I don’t think he’ll have the goal threat of Willems, he only scored one and didn’t assist any last season, but in a better side than Norwich I can see him having a decent season. I would have liked to have seen Willems come back in, but we don’t know what shape he will be in after his injury. Since Jose Enrique we haven’t had a permanent player that can naturally play at left back and give us an offensive outlet. Lewis can hopefully be this player.

If we can sign a quality right back, I would be chuffed with this window.

I’m not forgiving Mike Ashley for his ‘mistakes’ but it’s good to see that he is now showing some interest in protecting his investment. I do think he is a willing seller and I hope that he manages to get the club ‘over the line’ before this season ends.

One thing seems certain. If he is still in control come summer 2021, relegated players seem to be the new market for Mike Ashley.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin


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