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Opinion

‘The Newcastle United signing that above all others I want Eddie Howe to make’

1 month ago
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Well, that was a fun weekend of sport, wasn’t it?

The perfect start with three much-needed points for Newcastle United; an action-packed Saturday as my nephew Jack Gibson backed Noble Yeats at 50/1 in the Grand National (he truly is the Man The Bookies Fear, with apologies to the late Doug Moscrop); and some cracking results on Sunday.

For several reasons I always enjoy hearing Arsenal, that so-called big club from London village, have lost at home, especially now I have many friends who support Brighton and Hove Albion.

However, the best result was Burnley’s limp defeat at Carrow Road, which maintained the 10-point gap between the Mags and the drop zone.

Even this eternal pessimist now believes we will be playing Premier League football next season. That’s some achievement. Since the beautiful game was redesigned by Sky Sports in 1992, we will be the first team to avoid relegation despite going winless in the first 14 matches.

While the poet TS Eliot apparently reckoned April was the cruellest month, for football fans this can be a time to look forward, secure in the knowledge that their club’s current status has been preserved.

We all realise that standing still is not a sensible option, especially with Manchester City and Liverpool a country mile ahead. Never mind their starting line-ups, on the subs’ benches for Sunday’s little scuffle at Middle Eastlands, were at least nine players who would probably improve our team. Gundogan, Grealish, Zinchenko, Fernandinho and Mahrez in blue; Kelleher, Gomez, Firmino and Diaz in red. Not that I have come to praise those two clubs, whose owners plotted to form a closed-shop European set-up only 12 months ago. I would rather bury them. Their teams, though, are pre-eminent and anyone who disputes the massive gap between them and the rest should go to Specsavers.

But why not dream? And dream big? Our newish owners have shown encouraging signs by recruiting Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes, who both have the quality we need. Several more top, top players are required if Newcastle United are again to become a force to be respected and feared.

Football at the elite level is a cut-throat business with no room for sentiment. Each of those who earns millions every season from kicking a ball realises he can be frozen out, replaced, forgotten and discarded if his face no longer fits. The expectation is that many of the players who have helped to keep us in the Premier League since 2017 will be shown the door sooner rather than later. I can only hope they will remember the support we gave them, just as we should remember their prowess.

The future beckons regardless. If the excellent Eddie Howe could pick one Newcastle United signing to transform our fortunes on the pitch, whom would he favour? Don’t forget, we are allegedly the richest club in the world, so money should be no object.

My choice would be an attacking midfielder who makes goals and scores goals. He’s two-footed, has vision, speed, ball-control, dribbling ability and bravery. He can play anywhere from outside left to outside right to No10 to false No9. And he’s still only 21. The player around whom Gareth Southgate should build the England team. He won’t, of course, because Mr Waistcoat is a mediocre manager.

That’s England’s problem.

However, just imagine if Philip Walter Foden could be persuaded to swap one set of Middle Eastern employers for another. I’ve watched him from a distance since he helped his country win the Under-17 World Cup in October 2017. In some of his early club games he looked out of his depth, perhaps understandably when even today he is only 5ft 7in and barely 11st. Size is not everything, however, and his supreme ability has been clear for all to see in the past two or three seasons.

I asked my friend Alan Riches, a City supporter since the 1960s, for his view. “Foden’s stats speak for themselves. He has already played 160 times for City and scored 42 goals (and 15 caps for England, with two goals). And don’t forget how many other world-class attacking midfielders / false No9s there are in the City squad (De Bruyne, Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Grealish, Mahrez, Jesus, Gundogan) as well as two others he has seen off: Sane (now at Bayern Munich) and Torres (Barcelona).

“Foden has many of the qualities of the player he has arguably replaced in the City team, David Silva. Excellent close control, especially in tight areas, and the ability to drift past defenders and/or pass through them. He’s the best I’ve seen at receiving the ball on the half-turn, giving him that extra split-second to turn a defender or lay the ball off to a teammate.

“He also reads the game well for someone so young and can see a pass almost as well as De Bruyne (who is nine years older). Like Silva, he is small and slight of stature, but that didn’t hold Silva back!”

And here’s the one surprise in his appraisal: “If he keeps on developing and improving at his current rate (and stays fit!), he’ll be world class in a year or two.”

For my money, the Stockport Iniesta is already world class ie good enough to be selected in a Best of the World squad.

To paraphrase John Lennon: “You might say I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one/I hope one day he’ll join us . . . ”

Foden is not, of course, a one-man team. I’m praying he’s not a one-team man. His head was turned once on an England trip to Iceland, after all!

However, other recruits will be needed, so here are seven more, alongside Foden, I want to see playing in black-and-white stripes before the end of next season. Vote for the one you want most as your dream Newcastle United signing.

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