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Opinion

The reason why Newcastle United fans are getting so excited about Jamal Lewis

2 weeks ago
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Monday night saw news come in that Jamal Lewis had been given permission to leave the Northern Ireland squad early.

The Norwich left-back having played the full game on Friday night as his international tea, got a very decent 1-1 draw in Romania.

However, with a transfer to Newcastle to complete and the Premier League kicking off on Saturday at West Ham, the 22 year old allowed to miss Monday night’s Nations League match with Norway in Belfast.

It looks like his absence didn’t exactly help as Northern Ireland were battered 5-1 at home in a poor defensive performance. More importantly though, Jamal Lewis travelling to Newcastle early should allow him to get his move completed today and get on the training pitch ASAP with his new teammates, ahead of hopefully being able to start against the Hammers.

Signing a new left-back isn’t usually the biggest cause for celebration but for Newcastle fans, the impending £15m purchase of Jamal Lewis is a real milestone.

Working backwards from the January 2020 transfer window, these are the Newcastle United left-backs brought in (summer 2007 – January 2020) so far under Mike Ashley:

Loan – Danny Rose

Loan – Jetro Willems

Loan – Antonio Barreca

£3m – Achraf Lazaar

£2m – Massadio Haidara

£5m – Davide Santon

Loan – Patrick van Aanholt

£6m – Jose Enrique

Over the course of thirteen years, Mike Ashley has consistently refused to allow money to be spent on the left-back position. Indeed, after allowing the £6m purchase of Jose Enrique on 31 July 2007 in the very first transfer window when he took over, the next 13 years and two months have only seen a grand total of £10m spent on the position.

Indeed, Ashley has totally relied on loan signings to try and make up the shortfall in the left-back position in recent years.

Paul Dummett is a steady defender but gives nothing going forward and more importantly is becoming ever more plagued by injuries. Out injured since January 2020, Mike Ashley looked set to refuse any proper investment in the left-back position yet again as Paul Dummett was back playing in pre-season friendlies. However, with Steve Bruce confirming that Dummett has injury problems yet again, that seems to have belatedly forced Mike Ashley’s hand.

Jamal Lewis still has to complete his move and then do it on the pitch but what he does at last do, is give us hope of getting more from that left-back position. A player who can get up and down the pitch and contribute to attacks, as we saw for a brief period at times with Jetro Willems, although he struggled at times in the defensive part.

When it comes to Newcastle United full-backs overall, it has been a dismal story, in terms of proper investment on the right side as well.

Working backwards from the January 2020 transfer window, Newcastle United right-backs brought in (summer 2007 – January 2020) under Mike Ashley:

£5m – Emil Krafth

£4.5m – Javier Manquillo

£5m – DeAndre Yedlin

Free – Jesus Gamez

£5m – Daryl Janmaat

£1m – Kevin Mbabu

£5m – Mathieu Debuchy

£5m – Davide Santon

£1m – James Perch

£2m – Danny Simpson

£2m – Ryan Taylor

£2m – Habib Beye

The net result of this trying to get by on the cheap is that now Newcastle United have ended up with three right-backs and none of them are Premier League standard, certainly not as a regular starter anyway.

Krafth and Yedlin are both really poor, whilst Manquillo is a battler but only a squad player at best.

Adding up their combined transfer fees you get to around the £15m figure that will be paid for Jamal Lewis, a shame we aren’t seeing this happening on the right as well.

Whilst he would cost more than Lewis, Max Aarons looks a real class act and a player that could be a real top player in the future. Now that would be a statement of intent if Mike Ashley allowed £20m+ or whatever it takes to sign the Norwich right-back. I can’t see it though, not when Ashley sees we already have three right-backs…

Other than in the full-back positions, goalkeeper is really the only other position where Mike Ashley has been so unwilling to spend very much, if anything, throughout his entire 13 years and counting.

However, Ashley has hit very lucky in the keeper position though as Shay Given, Steve Harper and Tim Krul were already at the club when he bought it, Rafa then later bringing in the excellent Martin Dubravka for £4m, whilst Karl Darlow has been decent back–up at £4m (£5m Sels didn’t work out and Rob Elliot was a cheap and cheerful back-up).

We all know that Mike Ashley’s transfer ‘strategy’ has been anything but decent, however, in comparison to Newcastle United full-backs, there has been relatively far more of a willingness to spend money.

Strikers – £40m Joelinton, Mitro £14m, Gayle £10m

Wingers / Attacking midfielders – Almiron £20m, ASM £20m, Townsend £13m, Ritchie £12m

Central midfield – Wijnaldum £14m, Shelvey £13m

Even at centre-back, Coloccini cost £10m twelve years ago, Lejeune £9m.

No doubt others could be listed but you get the picture.

Personally, I think Rafa Benitez would have, if given the backing, budget and freedom, made two quality attacking Newcastle United full-backs / wing/backs an absolute priority in the summer 2019 transfer window.

He had put together a very good collection of centre-backs who were suited to the three / five at the back system (seventh best defensive PL record in 2017/18 and 2018/19) and drilled them relentlessly into their roles.

What was then need was two quality wing-backs (which Jamal Lewis would be ideally suited to), get Rondon on a permanent deal, buy a quality playmaker, then with two or three other additions (funded in part by a number of departures) Newcastle could have had a very tasty looking first eleven.

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