Newcastle United has come a long way over the past several seasons. Since relegation in 2009, the team has fought its way back to becoming a contender for Europa League qualification and an outside shot at a the fourth Champions League spot. It’s a journey that few clubs are able to make so soon after relegation. That’s because we know that relegation often spells disaster for teams, with the plight of Leeds United being a prime example.
Newcastle has actually done the polar opposite of Leeds and improved upon their position in the league from the seasons prior to their relegation. It’s been quite impressive to see the turnaround the team has made without having to bring in their own Sheik and splash nauseating amounts of money. It’s actually quite refreshing to see a team do it the “old fashioned way.”
One of the biggest factors in the Magpies turnaround has been their dealings in the transfer window. They’ve made shrewd buys but also they’ve done what a lot of rebuilding clubs should do in my opinion — buy low risk/high upside players at reasonable (in some cases almost criminal) transfer fees. Just look at some of the players below for example:
Yohan Cabaye: £4.4 million
Cheick Tiote: £3.08 million
Hatem Ben Arfa: £5.28 million
Demba Ba: Free
Papiss Cisse: £9 million
Davide Santon: £4.972 million
Gabriel Obertan: £2.992 million
Sylvan Marveaux: Free
Total = £29.724 million
— Less than £30 million spent on eight players who are no older than 26 years of age. Incredible.
There’s some risk involved in some of these players. Take Demba Ba and David Santon, with their claimed injury troubles, as case in point. Newcastle has certainly made out like bandits. They even one upped themselves by turning a profit on their investment with the sale of Andy Carroll. Even if Newcastle went back to being the mid-table club that they were before, you could probably still hear Mike Ashley laughing all the way to the bank. It almost defies belief that they’ve improved themselves with their investments and made a profit. Few clubs have brought in so many players and walked away with a near £6 million profit. Much of the thanks for that profit should go to the generous Kenny Dalglish. If Mike Ashley decides to buy anyone a pint, it needs to be Dalglish.
With such a relatively huge success for the club, Newcastle cannot rest on the laurels. There are still plenty of improvements that need to be made, mainly in defense. It’s unlikely you’re going to be collecting silverware with Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson and James Perch being key figures in your defense — despite their stellar performances of late. If the club is to continue its development and rise up the table, the defense along with the squad’s depth is going to have to improve dramatically. Gabriel Obertan and Sylvan Marveaux are great starts to addressing the latter issue and are certainly quality players to have coming on your bench. But when you start playing those European matches, your squad depth really starts to show, and if you don’t have the required depth, you’re not only going to start failing in Europe, but in league standing as well.
Soccer is a win now sport in every aspect of the game. It’s rare that you see a club take the traditional way to build themselves gradually to become a sustainable power in the league, mainly because of all the financials that are involved with the amount of time that’s involved in doing so. I doubt you’re going to find a supporter of any top 10 team who would be opposed to Champions League football. But sometimes when success comes at such a rapid speed, it can be detrimental rather than beneficial to clubs. So for now, Newcastle and its fans should enjoy the ride. Your road back to prominence is ahead of schedule (something Alan Pardew agreed with today) and if they ever do decide to invest in their defense, the rest of the league should be put on notice. Newcastle is on their way back to the top and if things continue the way that they have been, they’re going to be on top for quite a while.