The new season is fast approaching, and amidst a wildly entertaining transfer window it appears Newcastle United are, once again, doing it right.
Gone are the days of the world’s most comically incompetent director of football, Joe Kinnear, along with his unpleasant case of incessant verbal diarrhea. UK Radio show TalkSport has thankfully (and finally) begun rejecting Kinnear’s three AM phone slurs, safe in the knowledge that he is suitably content devouring his umpteenth Yohan kebab of the week. Sorry. And although the media’s recent silent treatment is something of a public service, one can only imagine the earache poor Mrs. Kinnear is now subject to at home; no doubt she spends her evenings trying to enjoy some vintage Countdown as Kinnear spews inaccuracies at the TV, claiming it was in fact he who originally proposed the show way back in ’82. But, as the old adage goes, every cloud has a silver lining — even one as coarse as Joe Kinnear. Unexpectedly for Newcastle fans, however, that silver lining materialized within the shady confines of Mike Ashley‘s psychotic Tyneside empire.
Emerging from Kinnear’s dusty career ruins akin to Hugo Weaving in V for Vendetta, bespectacled phantom Lee Charnley has ghosted about United’s transfer business in an understated yet largely satisfactory fashion. Elevating Charnley’s new found likability further is the simple fact that he, in Kinnear’s wake, has decided to keep his lips tightly pursed and — take note here, Joe — actually done some work.
Don’t be fooled that everything at St. James’ Park is rosy, though. The sale of Yohan Cabaye is still fresh in the minds (and aching hearts) of the shirt-shy middle-aged Geordies who refer to him so adoringly, and so oddly, as ‘The Dreamboat’. Another to follow in Cabaye’s path out the exit door was his best pal and The Toon’s player of the season, Mathieu Debuchy. Fortunately, this double Gallic blow has been greatly softened by the arrival of some well thought out acquisitions, and kudos here once again to football’s own super-sleuth and Newcastle’s chief scout, Graeme Carr.
Though not a like-for-like replacement of Cabaye, the acquisition of playmaker Siem de Jong early in the window was a real statement of intent from The Magpies. Luuk de Jong, a colossal man afraid of his own shadow during his spell on Tyneside, at least had the common decency to commend the club to his infinitely more watchable brother. While Siem resembles a man who grew up basking in the glow of Total Football, sibling Luuk strikes the ball like a ghost with rickets. I like to imagine the pair as John Steinbeck’s George and Lenny; Luuk the good-natured giant, unaware of his own strength being led by Siem, the intelligent marksman (George), who is far more adaptable to the English game.
The exciting addition of Remy Cabella must also be accredited to Carr, who has been monitoring him for well over a year now. Though unable to secure the mercurial winger in January, the Newcastle board chose to bide their time and landed the former Montpellier man for UK£12,000,000 — albeit against the will of Montpellier club president, Louis Niccolin. With 14 goals and five assists in France’s Ligue 1 last season, the French international could yet prove a real coup.
Improving The Magpies’ heavily depleted forward line, which consisted solely of injured Papiss Cisse just a month ago, are new boys Emmanuel Riviere and Facundo Ferreyra. Riviere scored nine goals last season for AS Monaco coming mainly from the bench, whilst Ferreyra slotted seven in seven for Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk. Riviere is a quick and powerful striker, while Ferreyra stands imposingly at 6-foot-4. If both begin firing and Cisse returns to form, Newcastle could be in for an exciting offensive season.
Finally, in addition to solid acquisitions Jack Colback and Ayoze Perez, United managed to fend off strong competition for Netherlands World Cup star Daryl Janmaat. The attack-minded right-back impressed in Brazil and comes to Newcastle from Feyenoord with good pedigree. After selling Mathieu Debuchy to Arsenal for a reported UK£11,000,000 and paying out UK£7,000,000 for the much younger Janmaat, it has to be said that this looks like shrewd business.
If a good portion of these signings live up to expectation and stay injury-free, Newcastle could be challenging for the top six and heading for European football once again.