With the January transfer window creeping toward its halfway point, our efforts to find a replacement for long term absentee Steven Taylor ought to be in full swing behind the scenes.
But can we expect to see an established defender turn up on the St. James’ Park doorstep? If we do, is that necessarily a good thing? Perhaps not, if you’re a fan of Fabricio Coloccini.
You can call me a cynic and you wouldn’t be the first, but I honestly believe that the arrival of a genuine first-teamer will signal the beginning of the end for captain Colo. With Fabricio widely reported to be on anything between £70k-£90k per week, and with contract negotiations having reached an ominous stalemate, surely spending the entire rumoured £8 million budget on a new centre back will lead to the Argentine being moved on in the summer?
We’ve known for a while now that our owner is all about trading in for the younger model. By the time the window closes, Colo will be 30 years old. As classy a player as he is, can you really see the board shoving a four or five year contract extension under his nose at that age? The hardball tactic didn’t work for Nolan, or for Barton, and – while there are promising young players willing to step into his boots for perhaps half the coin – it doesn’t seem as though it will work for Colo either.
As disheartening and infuriating as I find that, it’s simply the way it is. The slow and steady progress of our curly haired captain has seen him become one of the most loved and rated players of the current batch. The man is a pleasure to watch at times; calm and composed and more comfortable with the ball at his feet than half of the attacking minded players in the division. Perhaps it’s a tad early to be mentioning Geordie folklore, but I will go as far as saying Coloccini is one of the best we’ve had at the club in the Premier League era.
That being said, I don’t actually think Colo is the best signing we’ve made under the dictatorship of Mike Ashley – for me, that accolade has to go to Graham Carr.
Our Northumberland born chief scout has been nothing short of a revelation since Ashley hired him to pick up the pieces of the short lived ‘Executive Director of Football’ role vacated by pantomime villain Dennis Wise back in April of 2009. Since Carr took over recruitment, we’ve seen him bring in the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheik Tiote, and Yohan Cabaye for fees that you would have to describe as nominal in comparison to the ridiculous overspending of the not so distant past. Not only did we manage to sign all three of the aforementioned players for considerably less than we paid for one Michael Owen, but all three have shown enough to suggest that we got more than our money’s worth.
So, all things considered, here’s the question: would you rather see us go all out to land an established central defender to play alongside Coloccini for the remainder of the season – one who may or may not (but probably will, if you ask me) take his place next term – or would you prefer to see us send Carr out into the rough in search of another diamond?
Each approach has its merits. Being Colo’s number one fan, I would hate to see the chances of him signing an extension jeopardised in any way, and – if Carr’s previous is anything to go by – I might be inclined to simply place my trust in him and hope that he can find us some affordable quality from the continent. In reality, he probably has a handful of targets in mind. After all, this is the man who admittedly monitored the progress of Tiote for four years before deciding he was worth moving for, as well as keeping a watchful eye over his midfield partner Cabaye since the Frenchman was just 18 years of age.
On the other hand, is it sensible to take a risk on an unproven player after such a brilliant start to the current campaign? Sure, there’s a fairly good chance that Carr will pull another rabbit out of his proverbial hat, but if he doesn’t, what then? Pardew’s recent rallying cry (if you can call an admission that Europe is a realistic target a cry) suggests that the gaffer feels we have a second wind in us. What if Alan is right? What if we go on another unbeaten run? Why shouldn’t we pay a little extra for that guaranteed quality and just go for it? Surely, with 33 points chalked up at this stage of the season, we’re too far gone to be conservative?
This is all relative, however, and we all know why. Ben recently posted a good article that pinpointed the reasons why the first (and cheaper) of the above scenarios is probably the one we can expect to see unfold. Ambition, and lack thereof. It is perfectly possible (probable, even) that we will bring in a cheap import defender and cash in on Coloccini before his contract runs down.
Time will tell. One can only hope that whoever is brought in is an upgrade of (or at least as good as) Mike Williamson, but we all know by now that beggars can’t be choosers, and beggars is what we are steadily becoming.
Still, hope remains as long as we have Carr – a genuine European pickpocket!