As we get closer to the New Year, and whether we are willing to admit it or not, I’m sure most Newcastle fans are starting to get a bit twitchy.
We are the richest club on the planet and can afford the best players, but despite all of our new found wealth (and more importantly our owners’ willingness to spend it) will they come?
I have no doubt at all that in maybe three years’ time, when we have put together a half decent team and are hovering in the top six or seven, players will consider us worth a punt, but come January when we are still in the bottom three, how many players would be willing to put their careers on the line by possibly taking a dip into the Championship?
Mike Ashley was a notorious gambler. He essentially bet the entire club on Steve Bruce’s ability to keep us in the Premier League. He had so much faith in his managers’ ability to keep us up that he didn’t bother to include relegation clauses in the contracts of his higher paid players. As a result, we went down with the highest salary bill ever seen in the second tier.
But the plus side was we bounced straight back up as Champions. Twice.
If Eddie Howe has anything about him as a manager he will have negotiated a success payment worth a good few million if he manages to keep us up. After all, it would be no mean achievement, and would save his employees 80 – 90 million in revenue. Well worth a five million pound bonus.
On a related matter, how do we get quality players in?
Contracts being dished out in January will have to be weighted heavily in favour of the players. Good salaries, long term contracts, release clauses and significant success bonuses.
All this talk of Howe using his contacts to get players in doesn’t sit right with me. Sitting strapped to the bottom of the league with half the season gone I personally don’t believe that relegated players and free agents are the answer to our prayers. Callum Wilson may have been a breath of fresh air, befitting of a meagre budget when Bruce was in charge but let’s not forget that we are no longer rummaging around the Bargain Bins at Sports Direct.
While Wilson was a vast improvement on what we had at the time, he was still relegated with Bournemouth, sat half way down the top scorer’s table, and we didn’t have to fight off too much competition to get him to SJP. If we are seriously trying to stave off relegation we need to shore up the defence, bulk out the midfield and most importantly in my opinion, add a goal scorer who will have Wilson fearing for his place. If everything else remains the same, more goals is the fix!
The approach of our new owners will become very clear in the next two weeks.
We have a run of very winnable games in the first couple of months of 2022 but we will need players in early doors to see the improvement in those games that will get us those points that we are desperate for. Our activity in the first few days of the transfer market will show us just how much thought has been put into staying up.
If we bring in a handful of nobodies with limited Premier League experience in January then it will be pretty obvious that Staveley and Co are going with Plan B, which would involve a rebuild in the relative comfort of the Championship.
This may sound a bit of an odd thing to say. After all, the consortium didn’t spend 300 million quid just to watch the club be relegated, did they?
But what would relegation mean to us?
Some time to get our act together? It does seem that the sale of the club took everyone by surprise. Time to get backroom staff sorted? Time to get a Director of Football installed? Time to get rid of the deadwood and get the makings of a decent squad in place?
Financially, relegation these days can be a major inconvenience for the smaller clubs, with annual revenue taking a hit of between 50 – 80 million pounds. I can’t see that being a problem for us, other than the embarrassment. What would be embarrassing would be to bring in the likes of Lingard, Dele Ali and Tarkowski, and still go down.
Personally I think we should just make it. There’s enough rubbish around us to allow us to keep in touch with 17th until our financial windfall kicks in and allows us to improve our team performances significantly, something those around us may not be in a position to do.
Then again, even if, worst case scenario, we ended up popping down a division for a season, it would just be a minor inconvenience, suffered in the knowledge that greater things are definitely just over the horizon.
That said, if we do go down, there’s something uplifting about the thought of the FA having to pay PIF a parachute payment, to help them with the financial hardship of dropping out of the Prem.
Getting rid of Bruce and a bunch of signs is almost akin to virtue signalling. The first week in January will show us what our new owners are really all about.
Here’s a question for you. The consortium that bought Newcastle United FC. Does it actually have a name?