Remember that Marlon Brando line in On The Waterfront? As Malloy soliloquizes, “I could have been a contender, I could have been somebody,” I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that Newcastle fans might be thinking something similar.
And who can blame us?
All the resources are there – a massive stadium, tribally loyal supporters and a core of top six players – yet the tragic-comic result of the board’s instinct for self-destruction is such that the Toon Army remains an “almost” at best.
While some small satisfaction might be had in the budget success of 2011/2012 – a brief dalliance with Champions League football built on bargains like Yohan Cabaye – last season’s capitulation represented an unwelcome reality of an unwillingness to invest.
After finishing fifth in 2012, Newcastle had both the opportunity and pressure to buy big. But they didn’t and look where that got them – unstuck by Thursday/Sunday fixtures, bogged down by injuries and fighting for their lives right up until the penultimate game of the season.
You’d have that the board would learn from that. Clearly not. Newcastle have already begun their premier league campaign and only an injured Loic Remy has arrived on loan as a paltry gesture to appease the fans, while squad fillers we can scarce afford to spare have been inexplicably allowed to leave.
Newcastle do have some top players – Cabaye and Ben Arfa could walk into most other teams (and that’s part of the problem)– but they should not be charged with carrying deadweight, and adequate cover must be available, heaven forbid they ever get injured. Again.
It’s easy to blame Pardew, even easier when you see Jonas on the team sheet or Moussa out wide, but the real problem lies in an area not always acknowledged by armchair punditry – economics.
It’s not quite as simple as “spend some fucking money,” the panacea proposed by the Arsenal camp after last Saturday’s defeat to Aston Villa. It’s a case of getting the right players, at the right price, but that doesn’t necessarily mean for peanuts.
The Newcastle transfer policy is frustratingly misguided. This is helped in no small part I’m sure by the fact no one has heard of Joe Kinnear, despite the Irishman’s insistence that he is the best in the business – although what business this is remains elusively undefined.
So, Joe, for your benefit, I am about to explain how Newcastle can sign decent players at decent prices, and get those pesky Geordies off your back.
First, identify your needs. In Newcastle’s case this would be a top eight finish this season and some decent cup runs – any less and it’s underachievement.
Secondly, identify your means. Newcastle might not have the same war chest as Chelsea or City, but they’re not poor either, as this year’s Deloitte Football Rich List demonstrates. That means that ducking out of deals for the sake of a few million is unacceptable. Got that? Good.
Now let’s talk targets. There’s no sense trying to prize players who are internationally adorned – we’ll be out priced as quickly as Accrington Stanley, but what of players who are already “good,” with no risk of teething seasons, the pseudo stalwarts and proven premier league performers? Surely, the prospect of playing in front of fifty thousand plus each week is something even you can sell Joe?
Newcastle would do well to test the waters, instead of immediately admitting defeat. It’s all very well saying that the position of the club cannot match wage demands, but that is forgetting that in order to make money, you first have to spend it. Cliché? Perhaps. Naïve? Not on your nelly. It’s simple capitalism, you reap what you sow.
There’s something to be admired about Ashley’s ode to the Arsenal model, but in “stabilizing” the club, we also risk stagnation.
I’m not asking for marquees – we’ve come a long way since Freddy Shepherd’s gung-ho de riguer – but if we are looking to move towards the top six, we should be looking at top six players. I’m sorry Joe, but Darren Bent just doesn’t cut it.
It’s not that Newcastle can’t sign Joleon Lescott or Mathieu Valbuena. It’s that they won’t so long as they persist in this frugal financial façade.
If Newcastle were to invest and bring in a higher standard of player, then who knows, the league finishing position might pay the wage bill itself? If you sign top six players, you should finish in the top six, don’t you think?
Finally, let’s talk timing. Don’t fanny around. Don’t offer an unrealistically low price and try to barter. You’ve already proved you can’t do that. That sort of wangling is for big names, wheeler-dealers and people who are respected in the game. Sadly, you are none of these things. Cite Wimbledon all you want Joe, but the truth is, no one outside of England actually knows where that is.
Now, get a move on.