Not one of us fans had the foggiest idea with regards to our club’s plans for this January transfer window.
Alan Pardew went and told us that we were signing a defender and that was all we knew. So what happened?
Lets be honest, we were expecting to lose one of our key players for big bucks – someone like Cheik Tiote or Tim Krul – players that keep us ticking along. On these blogs some of us even convinced ourselves that we could maintain our current course without them, some of us even had faith that they would be immediately replaced, some had nothing but concern for what January may have in store, and with Tiote being the name that is continuously linked away it was he who was at the centre of most of the speculation.
For me, Tiote is key to our play. He is our glue in that he holds us together. He’s a machine that swallows up the opposition and gives us real thrust and bite. Replacing him would be much harder than some think – just look around – how many other sides have a player anything like him? Priceless.
What we did not expect was the news that Demba Ba has a release clause in his contract – so kindly broken to the press by a bloke who has nothing to do with us – Harry Redknapp. NUFC did not move to deny that rumour and now we find ourselves with the very real prospect of our best striker since Alan Shearer leaving this summer on the cheap – unless we can get him signed up on new improved terms.
Meanwhile, whilst we all battled through the perennial links to defender after defender, we find the club moved lightning fast and completely unexpectedly to secure the services of Ba’s International teammate and Bundesliga goal machine Papiss Demba Cisse! A striker with an increasingly fearsome reputation spreading across the continent. Good work team! That leaves us all standing to attention and applauding the club’s hierarchy and we start talking realistically about challenging Liverpool and Arsenal for that spot in the Europa League next season.
Not out of the question after all, since we lost Steven Taylor to his nasty achilles injury in December it was obvious that Alan Pardew and his staff, backed by Derek Llambias, would be getting a central defender in at some point – so once that signing is made we are sorted – and with extra fire power up front to boot! Excellent.
So the final days and hours crept up on us and we sat gawping at Sky Sports News and News Now waiting for an image of our new defender to appear outside St James’ Park. We waited and waited and waited. Meanwhile, Leon Best had been given permission to talk to Celtic. What?! With Peter Lovenkrands off on a free in the summer and clearly not fancied at present by Alan Pardew, why on earth would we ship Leon Best out? Just when we are looking like having a bit of quality in depth up front we go and try to blow it! Whatever your opinion is on Shola Ameobi, nothing can hide the fact that he has scored once this season and is looking less mobile with every minute he spends on the pitch.
Getting rid of Best, whilst losing Lovenkrands this summer would leave us with only three recognised forwards for next season – with the two Demba’s off to the African Cup of Nations again at the beginning of 2013. Even if we signed somebody, that would still leave us with the very real prospect of having to rely on Shola for a good month next season. Not a wise move allowing Best to go at all. He’s cheap and reasonably effective, what have we got to gain by letting him go?
In the end he chose to stay and I for one am very grateful for that. So then, the days and hours have blended into the passages of time and we are still sat staring at the TV screens for some news – any news – about a defender coming in, whilst small beads of sweat trickle down our nervous little foreheads. Some debate ensues about Watford stopper Adrian Mariappa’s ability to come in to our squad and do a good job, not that it mattered – as that move came to nothing anyway.
Luckily for us, the window slammed shut with Newcastle United having lost nobody of note except James Tavernier and the fallen star that is Alan Smith on loan. In the end, that alone makes it a decent window for us, especially with the extra fire power up front. However I sit here absolutely aghast that with all the time the powers that be at our club had, they failed to make the most important and vital transfer deal this January – signing a good quality central defender.
I understand the argument regarding not being fleeced by selling clubs and being patient for the right deal, but lets stop being all cotton candy and glass half full for a minute. If we were really going to challenge Arsenal or Liverpool for 5th place then we needed a defender. We had time to scout a fair number of suitable candidates that would have been available at the right price for both NUFC and the seller.We had more than enough time to get a deal over the line.
Now we are left with Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini being the only two fit recognised central defenders at our club and if the latter in particular gets injured we are in trouble. Refer to the Norwich game for an example. I don’t buy this James Perch can do a good job when needed guff. I take my hat off to the lad, he is doing a fantastic job coming on as a defensive midfielder and I believe Alan Pardew has finally found the lad a role he can excel in here – but on almost every occasion he has represented us in the back four we have looked ropey and exposed.
We know Pardew does not like Kadar as a player. He has been fit for a couple of months now and played well for the reserves, but has been overlooked every time an opportunity came up in the back line, so that is not going to change. Don’t get me wrong, we are having an excellent season and if we stay injury free our players could be strutting their stuff in Europe next season. However, I’m only too aware of how fast heads begin to drop when we get a bad result or two thanks to square pegs being put in round holes when injuries strike.
I for one am delighted that we kept our best players and signed a goal machine, but it can only be seen as a huge failure to have not secured adequate cover for central defence going into the toughest period of the footballing calendar. If we qualify for Europe, our key players are more likely to want to stay whilst we are in a much stronger position to attract good footballers to the club in the summer. Add to that the exposure to new audiences and potential future revenue that brings into the club and it has to be concluded that we have taken a huge gamble by not securing that defender.
Lets just hope that gamble pays off…