Ahead of tonight’s trip to Bramall Lane, Steve Bruce has been speaking out about the clubs transfer plans.
Reading between the lines, his comments are pretty concerning and act as a sobering reminder as to why we’ll never reach our potential under Mike Ashley.
The NUFC boss leaks the fact we have ‘two or three’ deals lined up for next summer, suggesting we’ve been in contact with players set to be available at bargain fees (or as free agents) in July 2020, yet, in the same breath, he seems happy to accept the fact we won’t be signing anyone in January.
Here’s what he’s had to say when asked about our transfer plans – both in January and next summer:
“Yeah, there’s plans of course. There’s a lot of water under the bridge until then but we have two or three things in place”
“I’m sure all of us are not naive enough to not address the Bosman situation. It’s always a good one for any club. We are in the process of that like everybody else does, I suppose. That’s no secret. We’re working away to see who is out of contract and who might be available.”
That’s fair enough – we’re preparing for next summer and seeing what bargains are out there to be snapped up – but preparing for next summer and neglecting the here and now is counter productive.
Here’s what he then said about the January window, suggesting we’re happy to do summer bargains but unlikely to spend (when we need to) in the new year:
“I’ve said all along, if there’s something that can improve us…but if I’m brutally honest, I can’t see it in January because nobody wants to sell their players,”
“If you’re not any better than what you’ve got, then what’s the point? I’ve been delighted with the squad so far. I still haven’t seen some of them. I haven’t seen Dwight Gayle, really. I haven’t see [Yoshinori] Muto really playing for me. I haven’t seen [Florian] Lejeune play for me.
“There’s a few that I still haven’t seen play and that’s where you need time. It’s OK on the training ground. You could be the best player in the world on the training ground – it’s a bit different in front of 50,000 on a Saturday.
“Until I see that, then I can’t make my mind up on someone.”
Sadly, his comments feels like he’s fallen right into Mike Ashley’s trap. Allow our club to naively focus on future money making opportunities but neglect the here and now.
Maybe Ashley will get his wallet out in January if we suddenly go on an awful run between now and the new year, but the fact Bruce has done a solid job so far could well cost him when it comes to much needed January additions.
Sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate. An example – Maybe Jarrod Bowen is one of these players who will be ‘too much’ in January, but a player we may be able to sign for free (or at a cut-price fee) over the summer. I see the logic to an extent. Why pay big money now when you can have him on the cheap in 6 months time? But it’s not as simple as that in this game. It’s not like retail. It’s risk-taking.
OK, we might stay up without reinforcements, but we can’t leave it to chance when we have glaring weaknesses in certain areas. Bruce must know that, yet it feels like he’s fallen into Ashley’s trap with some of his justifications for not strengthening in January.
Does he honestly think Yoshinori Muto is going to be the answer? I think he can be a handy fourth choice striker and feel he hasn’t been given a proper chance, but if he’s yet to give him a chance after Joelinton’s struggles, Carroll’s lack of fitness and Gayle’s injury niggles earlier in the season, when will he ever get his chance? Bruce may believe had can be useful, but he’s clearly not the goalscorer we need to take the weight off Joelinton’s shoulders and fire us to safety in the new year.
As for not seeing Gayle, does Bruce really need to see more of him given he’s regularly talked up the former Newcastle no.9 as a player he’s tried to sign in the past?
It’s been made clear for some time that Ashley only gives the green light to get a deal done when it’s ‘the right one’ and ticks all of his boxes.
We spent big on Almiron last January but that deal got dragged out and was one that came at the END of Atlanta’s MLS season. A year on we’ll surely be looking for a goal scorer, but any club who has one will demand we pay a premium – and Bruce’s comments here suggest we won’t be willing to.
There’ll be good enough players available in the new year. The question is, will we be willing to make good enough offers?
I think we have what it takes to stay up, however I fear we’ll be relying on loan deals to boost a side woefully short on goal scorers.
Hopefully we find a Dubravka or two, not a Doumbia. Either way, it’s not a sustainable method, with Bruce’s being a sobering reminder of how we’ll continue to do business under Mike Ashley.