The key to Vitality?

Team togetherness
After spending half a day frantically switching between Newsnow, Sky Sports and other transfer related media sources in some desperate attempt to find something, anything, Toon related to get excited about on deadline day – I soon realised that I needed to take a step back, chill out and focus my energy on something constructive. ‘What will be, will be’ I told myself.

By 23:00, I was neither satisfied, nor upset. The nerves had calmed and the period of reflection on our summer dealings (or lack of them) set in – followed by an analysis of our squad depth. Much has been discussed about our failure to bring in a recognised quality striker to compete with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, likewise the lack of action when it came to a central defender or a full-back.

I got talking to a friend, who echoed words allegedly spoken by Yeovil Town manager Gary Johnson. It went something like this: “I won’t be doing any business on deadline day. I’ve got a small, tight squad that I can take anywhere in the country and I know they’ll always get on. They are all mates and are there for each other. It does not matter if I don’t always have enough players to fill every space on the bench – my players know that they will all be getting plenty of football, so don’t mind waiting for their chance.”

Yeovil are currently joint top of League 1, despite spending almost nothing. The key to their success? A small tight squad with a few players that can do more than a decent job in a variety of positions. They don’t have massive financial problems because they live within their means – factor in a good manager with a squad who care about each other – and you have the tools you need to succeed. Well well, it seems Newcastle are not alone!

On one hand we can accuse the Toon heirachy of penny pinching, pocketing the profit and gambling with our future. That was my immediate reaction. Having had time to put the emotions back in the locker and take a somewhat neutral point of view my stance has softened. Now don’t go putting me on a fluffy cloud with the dreamers or eternal optimists here. I don’t buy into that blind faith, but it’s fair to point out that the Reality Train was equally as tedious at one point too.

As fans, the main summer priorities were fairly unanimous:

Priority 1: Retain the services of our key players.

Priority 2: Replace Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best with a proven striker capable of standing in for the two Demba’s.

Priority 3: Get some proven competition/cover in for Captain Colo and Steven Taylor.

Priority 4: Sign a quality full back.

Now then, the underlining success story of the past three seasons for us has been without a doubt our squad unity. Relegation meant an end to mercenaries and washed up big names on big money. That approach may have sold an extra shirt or two – but it ultimately drove our club into the red and saw us become a Premier League laughing stock – until we were no longer a Premier League team.

What we have now is a group of players that work for the shirt, their manager, their fans and each other. Ryan Taylor is a classic example. He never knows what position he will be in next, whether that be in the starting line-up or on the bench – but he never moans and he always put in a good shift.

What our top brass and management appear to have learnt is that signing a player is not as simple as watching Youtube for two minutes and handing over £50k a week (take note Mr Wise). For anywhere near that sort of obscene money, you need real quality. You need discipline, a professional attitude, value for money, consistency, team ethic and the right personality. Scouting is not as simple as turning up and watching a game or two. Not if you want a player to fit in with the group and make a difference over a prolonged period of time anyway…

That level of scouting means shortlists are going to be exclusive. Not only do you need all of the above – you need the player to be available at a price that is not going to drive your club into administration five years down the line. Cisse is a terrific example of this. Us fans were left frustrated by the lack of action following the Carroll departure, but look what happened. The resources we had kept us ticking over until the right man became available. We had the money on standby and bang, out of nowhere we had our man. My oh my, how he has settled in.

Yes it’s frustrating that we have not had the incomings that we had hoped for, but I have no doubt that when the right man becomes available at the right price – our club will not hesitate to act. It’s all about the bigger picture. In the meantime lets revisit our summer priorities.

#1 – All of our key players remain in Black & White. Job done.

#2If the two Demba’s end up at the ACON, then we have the January window to get somebody in. In the meantime, young Campbell is getting valuable experience as part of our squad. In my opinion Haris Vuckic is a future star, this season he can step up and get himself noticed. He would slot in perfectly for the many occasions when we play 4-2-3-1, just behind the striker. He has a natural instinct when it comes to getting into the right position at the right time and he knows how to hit a ball from distance. He was a bit rusty in midweek against the Greeks, but impressed all the same. The more game time he gets, the sharper he will be. Personally I think we needed a striker this summer more than anything as the Demba’s almost cancel each other out, however we can get by without – for now.

#3 – Mike Williamson will always have his critics, however he played his part in our 5th place finish last term for the majority of our season and is an able back up player. James Perch is better every game he plays and can stand in when required. This is still an area we need to improve, but we have the depth to pull us through on a temporary basis when the inevitable bans and injuries take hold.

#4 – Ah yes, the full-back. How much do we really need one? Ryan Taylor’s injury is a blow for sure, but we have a choice between Vurnon Anita, Davide Santon and James Tavernier to cover Simpson at right back – whilst Shane Ferguson, Anita again and Jonas Gutierrez can all cover left back should Davide Santon get injured. Not to mention Ryan Taylor once he recovers.

Midfield and the wings are absolutely flush with players that can fill in all over the place and we can switch from a 4-4-2 to any variety of 4-5-1 that you choose. Personally, I see no problem with 4-4-2 – IF you have traditional wingers that can cross consistently well coupled with a front pair that work for each other. The Villa game demonstrated that we have neither of these things.

Our wingers like to dribble and like to cut inside. They do it well, but that suits a 4-2-3-1 more than anything. Jonas is not a winger, defensive midfielder or full back yes but conventional winger no. Gabriel Obertan has been trying to cross recently and I think Sylvain Marveaux will given time, so maybe it’s possible – but if it is ever going to work then we need to consider demoting Demba Ba or Papiss Cisse to the bench. Shola Ameobi can play in this role as the foil one of the Demba’s, or Vuckic in the slightly withdrawn role. Was letting Leon Best go such a wise decision? In my opinion, we should drop 4-4-2, concentrate on variations of 4-5-1 and watch our flair players take off.

We all talk about our lack of progress on the youth front, but if we keep signing established players in their positions then how are they supposed to get a look in and develop? They need the game time and this season is their time to step up. If they don’t, then we need to seriously invest next summer.

Perhaps our urgency for cover is not so pressing after all. What do you think?

About Shamrock

Like everyone here, support Newcastle United. Not the easiest side to feel good about at times, but it's our side!

44 thoughts on “The key to Vitality?

  1. Spot on article Shamrock – I agree with all of that (except Jonas as cover for left back). Ideally we needed a striker and a centre back but we can wait and it gives players that should be ready to step up a chance to show what they can do.
    Bigi has had a great start and can play a number of positions as can Anita, same with Perch and Tavernier – we have a decent squad with some versatile players who can cover the gaps and won’t p*ss and moan if they don’t start every game. We are certainly capable of a top 6 finish in my opinion.


  2. Shamrock, I totally agree, we kept all are key players unlike some & have the same 11 who got us to 5th place which in truth was an over achivement. Only time will tell and we always have the Jan window if needed.
    Like to Reo-Coker in on a free so Anita can drop back due to Raylor, Simmo & Perch being out though.


  3. If we look at James perch as an example of a player who was roundly considered by all, as totally useless, but with the right coaching has turned into a steady accomplished squad player who won’t let you down. We could hope for the same results with players such as Obertan & Vukic etc….I believe Simpson is better now than he was a year ago. Even one of the Demba’s [possibly Ba] could ‘learn’ to play in a different way. Premiership quality players should be adaptable and be able to fit in in more than one position around the pitch, so I guess what I’m saying is “forget the doom & gloom….it’s still a work-in-progress”


  4. Good read Shamrock, well thought out article. I’m pretty much in the same camp as yourself as far as squad ‘togetherness’ goes. I haven’t seen a squad ethos like this at NUFC since KK’s first reign. I was annoyed we didn’t bring in defensive cover, but I’m not sure how much of that was down to the constant carrot-dangling by the media I.E. disappointment in not bringing in players I’d be reading about day-in day out (Debuchy, Douglas).

    I do agree we have cover in the full back positions, but the problem with that is those players are also cover for elsewhere on the pitch. We have a lot of utility players, but the overall numbers are stilll a bit low for my comfort zone. We’re only 3 games into the season and Simpson, Perch and Raylor have all got knocks (Raylor’s being a bit more of a knock!). Centre back is still an issue for me, and has been for about 3 year now.

    I still think we could’ve done more this window, but I guess we have January as a fallback if the **** really does hit the fan. Bottom line for me, is we’ve had more than enough time to bring in defensive cover but so far haven’t. (Anita is primarily replacing Guthrie and will be a midfield player more often, so he doesn’t count. As much as I think utitlity players are great, I don’t buy into the two-for-the-price-of-one philosophy that Fatty seems to love.


  5. Yeah agree with the article very well written and some very good points. Not sure everyone will agree with it 😆 There is no point in having a youth set up if the young players dont get a chance to work towards the first team. If we can get 2 or 3 of those players to establish themselves in our sqaud it be a great achcievment. But they all have a chance to impress. Good luck to them!


  6. agree with most of the article.

    And we have to get our youngsters through in a more “natural” way and the only way is to take the chance this year and have a go at it with the youngsters.

    I believe we could form another “Andy Carrol” if the youngsters get some prem league time and we put the right “trust” in the coaching staff.

    pardew is a bit “off” in my opinion and should be more strict about player performances.. .let the youngsters have a go if the big names are troublesome or just plain **** on match day.

    Cabaye is a clear under achiever/performer this year and Bigi/Anita could be handed the place without a problem in my mind.

    And change formation please!
    Dynamic 433 isthe way to go


  7. Now that I’ve seen the game, I can comment. Re Cabaye. I don’t know why people are on his case and I don’t think we have anybody in the squad to replace him. He covers so much ground and is always in the midfield mix. Sure, there’s room for improvement (that’s the case with the whole team) but talking about replacing him is well off the mark imho.

    Oh, and on topic – we should have brought in 2 more at least, probably 3.


  8. Interesting article Shamrock and I agree with a lot of your points particularly the one about sprit and team building etc. If we’d done as everybody seemed to want we’d have 3 new players in the team and how long would that take to gel? As an example, Cabaye has looked really poor in the first three games. It could be that having to play with two PL rookies alongside him has diminished his game (jumping to conclusions that he’s upset about the Debuchy debacle or the rumoured Arsenal bid is too conspiritorial for me).
    The team will improve when:
    Tiote is back.
    We go 433 again and apart from the improvement Anita brings over Simpson we stick with what we had last season.


  9. Great read, Shamrock! It covers a lot of how I feel about this season.

    I do have some faith that if the right deals had been there we’d have seen other players in – but Pards and co are probably well aware of the points you’ve made, so did not see the justification of upping bids, salaries and terms to land targets. It’s a gamble, but given our owner’s hobbies, is that a surprise?

    I also think it makes the whole season far more interesting than just buying in big names. I get far more satisfaction out of watching Ferguson have a good game than Anita, for instance.

    All we need right now is for our main players to start firing properly – too many of them have been just off the boil so far.


  10. I think the biggest improvement we need to see is our strikers getting their sharpness back. Oh, and a goalie not on a purple patch, like the Villa one would be nice. 😆

    Shit, that was quite a save…


  11. Whumpie, how yer doin’? Off the boil is right and if I remember last season it was rather similar. Cabaye and Ba both started really slowly. Remember Troy’s Cabaye bashing?


  12. Don’t think its the strikers. I can’t remember us creating a real clear cut chance in the first three games. 433 for me and one of Ba/Cisse up front. They look hopeless as a pairing.


  13. Bris
    2-3 more signings? So we should have signed 5-6 players all together?

    As exciting as a ‘big signing’ is it doesn’t guarantee enything. I’m currently glad of our policy on paying over-inflated prices for players.

    If we don’t cave in and pay only £1-2 million over our estimate on one player that means other clubs know they can never financially rape us in the future and i think that’s great, long term for the club.

    I definately think we should be pushing our youth through now. People like shane fergurson and vuckic have never had a bad game for us when called upon and it’s time for our trust to be put on them.

    Cabaye hasn’t played ‘awful’ either. he’s just been a bit rusty/off the boil. It happens to every player and i’m sure he’ll come good again.

    Obertan is starting to impress me a bit more now. He still needs to practice his end product though. 😉


  14. If santon or Simmo get injured we are totally clutching at straws. We didn’t do enough in the window and we all know it. We always get loads of injuries so unless this season is any different then we will be hurting alot by Xmas if not before.
    Pards has known for ages that he was getting no other players in and that’s why he kept banning on about he was worried we would loose some big name players. He was trying to deflect attention in a new direction, making us all grateful that we kept our squad and that should be enough to make us grateful and that the window has been a sucess because of that.


  15. Nobby @ 13 : 4 or 5, yeah. I think that would have set us up for a good run at the Euro and a top 6 position.

    Not necessarily talking about ‘big signings’ – unless of course you think somebody like Douglas is a big signing.

    I have no problem with bringing younger players on. And I sincerely hope that it works out well in the end.


  16. Craig, I didn’t comment on it at the time, but Pardew’s ‘”we’ve had enquiries about some of our big players, and the fans should be grateful to Fatty for not selling” did really piss me off at the time. Yeah, sure I’m ‘happy’ we didn’t sell anyone, but to suggest keeping our players was some sort of treat rankled me, given our need to reinforce. You’re right too, there’s no way we won’t suffer some injury losses, it never happens – in fact it’s started already!


  17. Your always pissed Rodz 🙂 🙂

    There is a fair chance that Dekka has said to Pardz ‘hey, we have invested in youth and you have good players at your disposal, start using them
    Sometimes good things can come from bad situations, if a young’un comes good this season and establishes himself, then that is a fantastic result for the player and club 🙂


  18. ….I wish, Oswaldo. 😛

    I’m not too hacked off anyway, the squad din’t require anything drastic as far as I see it. But another one or two senior players could’ve been good.

    I hear what you’re saying about de yoot anyway (and what Shamrock said). Vuckic and Abeid seem to be stepping up now, not quote sure Tavernier is ready but he’s not far off. I guess the best way to learn is through playing, and Tavernier had his kick start at Sheffield Wednesday. Still not sure about Gosling, but this season does seem to be the season we start getting the whippersnappers some proper action. Fark knows about young Fergie. 😕


  19. Yeah Fergie seems to have dropped off the face of the planet?? Is he injured or on the **** list with Ranger??


  20. Aussie: He resumes training with the squad tomorrow along with Sammy Ameobi, both have been working on their fitness after having been injured earlier on in the summer months.


  21. Rodz – agreed mate. Tav, Vuckic and Abeid are ready now. If they aren’t they never will be. It’s got to be this season or we may as well sell.

    I also don’t understand AP’s faith in Gosling. I’ve seen him 16 or so times now and he’s ranged from abysmal to anonymous. His best game was last Thurs against a poor Greek side and even that upgrade made him look ordinary.


  22. I think Gosling will never be the same player, he had a horrific injury that nearly led to him having to retire from the game. He played well against Atromitos, which was encouraging. I think he hasn’t found his position in the team. He can actually play at full back but he seems to be reluctant to be put there.

    I don’t expect him to make his way into the starting eleven, he needs to show how good he is in the opportunities that he is given. If he doesn’t then he will remain on the fringes of the team as always.


  23. Agreed Ice! He’s not talented at all and really slow. How he gets game time ahead of Abeid I just cannot fathom.
    Mind you I remember his fabulous through ball for the Norwich winger last season . . .


  24. ICE I think you mean me at comment 25 😆 I think he has an attitude problem. He showed promise at Everton but since then he hasn’t done much at all.


  25. Interesting article Shamrock ,good read .The Gary Johnson quote is thought provoking isn’t it. When he was manager at my hometown club Bristol City ,he was brilliant .Got us to the playoffs but we just missed out on the PL 🙁 .After that the board sacked him ,he was in tears when he left the city ground ,he loved the club that much. One of the many reasons I stopped going to city matches ,our totally incompetent board 👿 On topic ,now the dust has settled yes you are right we have some talented youngsters coming through who can hopefully step up and do a job.My main gripe is the fact that for 3 seasons we have failed to address our defensive cover issues and we are a couple of injuries away from potential disaster. Should we lose Saylor (highly likely at some point) or colo or god forbid both we are buggered for sure. The other point worth mentioning is young Adam Campbell ,looks a great talent but I wouldn’t want him thrown in the deep end for weeks on end should we lose the Dembas(unlikely I know). Vuckic is still a little wasteful in front of goal for me but hey that may improve with game time. All in all we have an able squad who mostly seem tight but could really of done with a couple more imo.


  26. I see Ba has been banned driving for six months for being seen speeding. Wouldn’t it be great if he used that speed on the pitch instead?


  27. what is it with Cabaye that makes him better than others so far this season?
    I think people should start to focus on performance right now and forget last seasons performance.

    Cabaye earns 5 times Bigi but has a slow start??? What?

    He should f+ck!n play 5 times as good if you reflect that to our transfer policy regarding what is a player “worth”.
    Stop the baby bullsh… And look at how the team is performing and demand something.

    I hate excuses and i really think the “slow start/extra break because of euro” is so lame..
    If you say A you shold also say B.

    Wanna have extra time off because off euroes.. Then you should work twice as hard when you come back!

    The club pays their wage and should be their main focus.


  28. Its quite commendable in one respect the clubs transfer stance but it is also far too rigid to have long term benefits and here’s why:

    1, When, like us you have some pretty good successes in the transfer market, selling clubs get wise and ask ‘if NUFC want him he must be good’ so they put their price up. We then won’t pay the asking price, which by the way is probably a lot closer to the players value that our valuation. We lose out on a good player. After all if we’re so confident in our system why not pay that little extra knowing their value will increase?

    2, It’s false economics to say we won’t over what we value the player at. Take Debuchy for instance – if the club had of spent an extra £1m on him he would be a NUFC player now but we didn’t and left the squad poorer. What if by us scrimping it costs us 3 league places? That £2m we’ve missed out on. A net gain of £1m just for showing foresight. Subsequent injuries to Raylor and Simpson have brought this possibity nearer.

    3, What impact does this frigid, one dimensional transfer policy have on our current players? It’s two fold and they’re both negative effects; Some players (less talented) will be glad we didn’t improve the squad as it means they’ll be guaranteed their place, but will also mean their form dips due to complicancy – it’s human nature I’m afraid. The other problem is how do the better players feel? They are good enough to play at a higher level but stayed at NUFC in the hope of attaining that level with the club. What chance do they have if there appears very little ambition above not paying slightly more than your own valuation of a player to try and strengthen? Do they feel let down and begin to question their own future – a footballers career is short and every season without winning is a season lost.

    Now Pardew has alluded to the points 1 and 3 himself yet the club seem to have very little in terms of an alternative solution – this is worrying. Could we have a situation where our best players feel let down and our average players let their form dip due to complacency? That’s a perfect storm… Top ten finish is then only a hope and then that means the club lose an estimated £4m on league placement money. Indeed a false economy.

    As a set of fans we’re told our ambition is to qualify for the Champions league – very unlikely if we fail to improve. We’re also told the club want to win a trophy – again so very unlikely if, due to having a small squad we’re having to play young, inexperienced players in cup games.

    All in all the clubs policy is at best a great short term solution but having exhausted its usefulness they need another plan to keep the club moving forward – as we are today they’ve failed to come up with one…


  29. Very good article. As I keep saying, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same people who are crying out for quality signings now had probably never heard of Chiek Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, or Papisse Cisse.
    I would, however, disagree that Cisse and Ba can’t play together. Give them time. Their problem at the moment is they are struggling to find individual form, very often not even being able to trap the ball.
    Can’t agree with you Sharpy. The selling clubs want money too, and NUFC are usually offering at least as much as anyone else.




    I’m still at work and have not had a chance to form a reply. It will happen tho either tomoz or Thursday.


  31. Sham good read mate.
    You say we can wait till Jan to get the extra striker we need ? But what makes you think we will, because after all we have been short of a good CB to push for a starting place for a couple of seasons and even before the last Jan window Jabba even said about we needed one and was asking Pards when was he getting him, but we didn’t get one then lots on here were saying it was no biggy because the Jan window is a funny one and we would be better of waiting for the summer window ? But the summer window is now away too.
    I admire your optimisim but I don’t share it, I think Jabba has made a massive gamble, and again lots of fans have bought into it. 😕


  32. Got some good points shamrock. I’m disappointed we didn’t bring in more players either as first team or as cover for a variety of positions-namely FB, CB and striker. We do have players who can play full back-people often forget Marv has played there too, but none of them are specialist full backs really.

    Then again, Carroll only got unearthed because of injuries and relegation so its time for some of these youngsters to step up.


  33. From….’Midfield and the wings…to,…watch our flair players take off.’
    You are absolutely correct Shamrock. I have entirely the same opinion and I’m sure many others do. I know they have had a lot of travelling but they now have 2 weeks to get on the training pitch and sort out set plays, they have been unacceptably poor. Also this 4-4-2 just looks lazy tactics to me, there is no excuse for it. How many times have we seen them batter teams with the 4-3-3 last season? Are we playing this 4-4-2 to keep Ba happy? I can’t think of any other reason. It’s no good changing it at half time, by then it’s too late.


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