In classic Newcastle United style, we are again coming into a crucial period. This month though feels particularly important, with so much on the line for the club both in the short and long term. You get the sense this month will dictate which players do or do not arrive, our relegation chances and also the long-term term futures of both Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley. So just why is this month so vital?
1. Signings NEED to be made
It has been clear since the summer that we are in desperate need for reinforcements. Benitez wanted quality added last winter and was badly let down by Ashley, who then failed to back the manager in the summer. We need a striker, number 10, left back and goal keeper as priority and whether there is a takeover or not, we need new players. It may be the loan market if the takeover slows down but either way, we need quality additions to secure our status.
2. Swansea at home is HUGE
A decent festive period has saw us climb to 13th but that is still just three points above the relegation zone. We have struggled at home of late and our next league game sees us host bottom side Swansea. It is a fantastic opportunity to move onto 25 points and 3 points closer to the magical 40 point mark. A win would see us move 9 points clear of Swansea, so this really could help us bury one of our relegation rivals and kick-start our awful home form in the process. It’s a huge game for the context of our season and staying up.
3. Takeover finally looming?
Talks are ongoing and any major progression on the potential sale could significantly contribute to our spending this month. If Ashley remains we’ll no doubt see loan deals and signings in the £5-7m bracket at best, however you’d hope funds may be made available (via loans etc) to bring in a top striker if they were in a position to do so.
Rumours last night claimed that a takeover may even be completed on the 6th of January with PCP setting up a new company yesterday, which could be used as a vessel to buy NUFC. It was exciting news however these suggestions have been dismissed – although Staveley is still believed to be ‘very interested’ in buying the club. PCP could take us to the next level and deliver the investment and intent that Ashley never will and this news could change the history of the club.
4. Keeping Rafa happy and in it for the long term?
Signings and the takeover are key to keeping Rafa here for the long term. You get the sense he is staying put to see how the takeover pans out or if it materialises, and he won’t be leading another relegation battle with us next season, either way. He is doing a great job with a limited squad and keeping us up would be a great achievement after such a low net spend as a newly promoted side. Keeping the Spaniard will help us attract players of the calibre needed and his presence has undoubtedly been a draw for PCP.
I suspect there’ll be a big knock on effect from whatever happens from here on in. New owners could lead to new signings and you suspect that’d have a positive impact on our form, Rafa’s happiness and our hopes of survival. No breakthrough on the takeover front could mean bargain basement buys, a highly frustrated Rafa Benitez and a team that goes into the relegation scrap with the bare bones whilst our rivals will no doubt be strengthening. You can just imagine how much that second scenario would infuriate Benitez.
5. FA Cup returns – NUFC finally due a run?
Sandwiched in amongst all this sees the return of the FA Cup; with NUFC hosting Luton Town in the third round this weekend. It is a great chance to get to round 4 and we are long overdue a cup run. Survival is of course the priority this season but our trophy drought is well documented and our run to the quarter-final of the league cup last year suggests Benitez could be the man to give it a go. Any run would avoid further disappointment for fans and offer a platform to build momentum in the league.
A week is a long time in football as we all know, but the next few feel like they could be huge for Newcastle. Let’s hope our patience is rewarded and it’s a month to remember for all the right reasons.