One thing we can be certain about when it comes to our transfer policy is that NUFC love a bargain.
With that in mind, I’ve taken the liberty to look at the 100’s of professional players whose contracts are due to expire by the middle of the summer and see who us Toon fans would fancy as well as those the club are realistically going to be looking at given relative age, wage and potential ability.
I’m not going to randomly pick any old position though. Our team is looking good for depth in the middle of the park. We have Cheik Tiote, Danny Guthrie (need to get him tied down), Yohan Cabaye, and Dan Gosling holding the fort. The upcoming Bradden Inman and Michael Richardson will be looking to get involved over the next couple of seasons too. Hatem Ben Arfa and Haris Vukic are covering the more attacking central position, whilst the promising Ryan Donaldson is coming through who fits this mould. Young summer signing Mehdi Abeid is looking very impressive in the Reserves. Alan Smith will be gone this summer. In short, we are covered here.
In goal we have potentially World Class Dutch International Tim Krul proving very reliable hands, whilst new signing Rob Elliot appears to be the back up. There will be questions over the future of Steve Harper (I hope we keep him and give him a coaching role eventually), whilst Fraser Forster is likely to want to leave permanently either this January or summer. Jack Alnwick and Ole Soderberg are both decent prospects in reserve, but have a long way to go. If Harper stays we are covered, if not we may be looking for a cheap replacement.
On the wings we have summer signings Sylvain Marveaux and Gabriel Obertan, who have joined existing winger Jonas Gutierrez and the impressive Sammy Ameobi. Shane Ferguson also has the ability to ply his trade down the left, but it’s early days for him. With questions over Marveaux’s ability to stay injury free for any significant period of time, young Ameobi’s ability still being examined and Obertan running hot and cold, I think we are still a decent winger short of having proper depth out wide.
Up front Demba Ba is banging the goals in and his dodgy knee seems like a rumour. Leon Best seems to have done enough to be considered part of our squad and Shola Ameobi demonstrated against Chelsea that despite his inconsistency, he is very valuable to us if used correctly. We can expect Peter Lovenkrands to leave by the summer, whilst next season will be too soon for a boy I consider to be a future star – Adam Campbell. Nile Ranger has been farmed out on loan and whilst he has the ability to make it, his attitude off the pitch to his fellow human beings and training makes him a liability. He does not fit the hard working, professional mentality of the squad Alan Pardew is trying to shape and I can’t see him staying.
With Modibo Maiga strongly tipped to be joining in January, we will have four decent strikers up front. However, if the right man comes along that is good enough, I’d like to see a fifth senior forward in the squad for the 2012-2013 season so that we can really push on and compete.
That leaves defence. Full backs… Summer signing Davide Santon can cover both left and right. He has not been given his chance yet, but this is early days in his NUFC career. Danny Simpson finally appears to be showing consistency at right back and if he signs a new contract I think the majority of us will be happy to have him around. James Perch is OK as a bit part back up, but his previous attempts at trying to nail down the right back position left a lot to be desired.
On the left young Shane Ferguson can do a job and I’d like to see him get more game time, whilst Ryan Taylor has been holding the fort since Jose Enrique’s departure to Liverpool. I think the Chelsea game showed once and for all that his success in that position has been largely complimented by Jonas Gutierrez. We need a dedicated full back here. Santon will eventually adapt to England and we can expect him to fill this slot. With Ferguson backing him up we have three capable full backs for next season. We need one more, probably on the right although Santon can cover if necessary. If Pardew sees sense and drops Taylor, he may decide he needs to leave in order to get regular first team action. This could be the case for Perch too.
At centre back Steven Taylor is beginning to get a reputation as a fearsome, solid defender thanks to his partnership with Captain calm Fabricio Coloccini. These two will be our bedrock next season but we need good reliable back up. Coloccini needs to sign on too otherwise he could be gone this summer in return for a few pennies as opposed to losing him for nothing the following season. Hopefully Taylor is not becoming injury prone, this could be a long term major concern with two long term absences from the squad in the past year.
The only senior back up player we have is Mike Williamson. He is also a bit of an injury liability at the minute, but we can definitely expect him to be here next term. 2012 will come too soon for Remi Streete who I think is another future star, whilst Tamas Kadar has a chance in the coming weeks to finally showcase his talent. I have a feeling that Alan Pardew and his staff do not rate him though and reckon he will be offloaded this summer. Clearly then, we need more in this position.
In summary, we could do with a striker, a winger (left sided preferably), a full back and a centre-half or two with the possibility of a goalkeeper as back up. So lets take a look at the freebies. There are a few names that will not be happy to sit on the bench, so don’t be surprised if they don’t make my three player wish list for each position.
High profile ‘keepers like Tim Howard, Rob Green or Tim Weisz will not want to come here and fight for a place in the team with Tim Krul, so out of a long list of possibilities I have come up with these three:
1) David Cobeno, 29, Spanish, playing with Rayo Vallecano. He had a rocky start to his career, but as with many goalkeepers he is finally beginning to show consistency later in life. He is not exceptional, but is steady these days. He has only recently begun to get regular first team action at the highest level, so may not be prepared to come here and sit on the bench. However, if he can be convinced then he would be great back up.
2) Alex Manninger, 35, Austrian, playing with Juventus. We will all know him from his Arsenal days. In three years at Juve, he has made 35 appearances as back up to Buffon. He has spent his entire career as a back up and as a free agent he will be a decent replacement if Harper goes. He has an array of experience and could serve us for a good 2-3 years yet.
3) Craig Gordon, 28, Scottish, playing for Sunderland. Some of you will want me executed for recommending a Mackem, however he knows the area, Newcastle is close to home and our club is a step up for him. He has a history of injury problems but is easily the most naturally gifted goalkeeper out there available on a free this summer. His reactions are on a par with Krul and he would be a great addition to the squad to keep Krul on his toes.
We can have a bit of fun here, as we don’t just need cover, we need competition in the starting line up. That said, players like Eric Abidal and Jose Bosingwa would be too expensive for us and they will be looking for Champions League footy.
1) Felix Bastians, 23, German, playing for SC Freiburg. He began his career as a trainee with Nottingham Forest so is a fluent English speaker. Valued at £4m, he has a great left foot and is primarily a wing back, however he has immense versatility and can cover centre back, the dedicated full back position and winger with ease. He has good right foot too, so can be used on either side. With age on his side, he will only get better.
2) Maynor Figueroa, 28, Honduran, playing for Wigan Athletic. Regarded as one of the best in the league, he would provide us with solidity in this position. He has pace and will get forward, also capable of covering in the middle if required. Valued at just short of £5m, we would do well to get him this January on the cheap before his contract expires.
3) Mario Gaspar Pérez, Age 21, Spanish, playing for Villareal. An up and coming right back, he is fast gaining a reputation as an impending star. He is steady, quick and is not afraid to get forward and have a shot. Young enough to change his style slightly to adjust to the Premier League and could grow with the club into a real force of the future.
With the performances Colo and Taylor have put in, we should be considering them our preferred partnership next season if fit. They are as good a pairing as anybody at our level. However, I still think we should be looking at a top quality player to fill in. Injuries and suspensions mean any newcomer will get a lot of games and a fair opportunity to make the shirt their own. Simon Kjaer of Roma almost made my list, but I think he is destined for greater things in the short term.
1) Gary Cahill, 25, English, playing for Bolton. I know, I know, Spurs and other elite clubs will be after this lad so the competition may be too strong. However, Newcastle are still a big draw for somebody coming from the likes of Bolton and we may be able to offer European football next season. He would have a good opportunity of claiming a shirt for his own in front of 52,000 loyal fans week in, week out and would be able to stay in the North with us. Being Yorkshire born this could well suit him. We are a club on the up and I reckon we could convince him if we tried hard enough.
2) Sebastian Prodl, 24, Austrian, playing for Werder Bremen. At 6’4″ he is a big unit. He can play holding midfielder if we ever got stuck too. Young enough to improve further, he would have time to adjust to the Premier League. 29 caps for his Country shows he already has top level experience. This season he has been hampered with a torn buttocks muscle. He has a bit of history with injury problems, but if he can overcome that he could become a very good defender. Worth a punt on a free.
3) Hedwiges Maduro, 26, Dutch, playing for Valencia. Worth £3.5m, I’d consider him a steal at that price so as a free he would be exceptional business. He has won the league with Ajax many times and chips in with the odd goal. He is impressive as a right back, but comfortable too as a central defender or holding midfielder. He would be a great option in our squad and is a born winner, a mentality that would compliment our boys thinking well.
4) Douglas Franco Teixeira, 23, Brazilian born with Dutch citizenship. Playing for FC Twente. Four players have to go into this list because we may need two in this department and there are so many good free options out there. This bloke is one of the best young defenders in Europe. Commanding, good timing, would be a great signing. Currently worth £7.5m.
Again, no reason why an incoming winger cannot compete for a place in the starting 11. With Sylvain Marveaux looking like an injury prone player and Gabriel Obertan not looking consistent, there is an opportunity for somebody here. There was a couple of winger come strikers that I was tempted to include here, but I think Pardew wants his wingers to be able to defend a bit so it has influenced my choices.
1) Tranquillo Barnetta, Age 26, Swiss, playing for Bayer 04 Leverkusen. We have previously been linked with this player so most of you will know him. With his contract up soon, he will probably be linked with us again. He is left footed and very good technically, albeit his goal and assist ratios are not exactly mind blowing. He offers great protection going back though and would give us tremendous depth. He has sat out this season with a knee injury but is due back in the new year.
2) Chori Castro, 27, Uruguayan, playing for Mallorca. He is a creative left winger worth over £5m, with an average of one goal every five games. He can be a little greedy at times but will produce the goods with a little bit of magic given half a chance. Not the most defensive minded either, so his tackling could be a worry but he is not afraid to get back if needs be. A bit of the Pardew magic and he could work well for us.
3) Somen Tchoyi, 28, Cameroonian, playing for West Bromwich Albion. Primarily a powerful right winger, he can be used across the midfield. Not been in great form this season, however on his day he is unplayable. Don’t believe me? Remember the game at St James’ Park against West Brom that we drew despite winning 3-0 at one stage? He got a hat-trick in the last 30 minutes.
1) David Hoilett, 21, Canadian/Jamaican, playing for Blackburn Rovers. One of the most promising young forwards in Europe, he is direct, strong, a good finisher and knows how to direct a header. Similar type of player to Daniel Sturridge, he can play on the wing and is good with both feet. His style would compliment Ba’s and I have no doubt a move for him would pay off for him and Newcastle United. Get him signed up!
2) Jefferson Farfan, 27, Peruvian, playing for FC Schalke. Again can play on the wing, but better off as a striker. Lightning fast, he will get you a goal or an assist for every two games. Fantastic return and powerful. Would suite this league well. He only just made this list as I think there will be some big sides looking for his signature, but again we are a big club on the up and may just be in with a shout if we recognise that putting our hands in our pockets occasionally will take us to the next level.
3) Andy Johnson, 30, English, playing for Fulham. OK, so he’s not the right age. However, he is a natural poacher, which is something we don’t have. Due to his in-the-box abilities, we don’t need to worry about him losing a yard of pace over the next couple of seasons. He is a proven goalscorer in the Premier League and I reckon he would find a move to us too good to turn down at his stage of his career. He’d mop up those stray balls from Shola’s crossbar/upright strikes faster than you can say ‘GOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!!!!!’.
So there you have it. Feel free to mention any other recommendations you like yourselves and let us know what you think about these options… With so many good players available this summer for nothing (except outlandish signing on fees), I think this is an avenue NUFC will be looking to walk down.
Don’t expect big fee’s for players this January folks. It aint gonna happen!