January 25th, 2013. A date that perhaps doesn’t mean much to most Newcastle United fans. It most definitely does though. It was the date when Moussa Sissoko signed for Newcastle United for just over £2 million from French side Toulouse. This was to be United’s last permanent signing to this day.
Players have departed — Yohan Cabaye and James Perch, to name a couple — but Newcastle have made just two loan signings to their name. The soon-to-be-departed Loic Remy and a striker without a goal for the club since joining in January, Luuk De Jong.
Yet Newcastle are hitting all targets set for them by their tycoon owner, Mike Ashley. A top half finish, an end of season pot of gold — with very little cash layout. Much like his hugely successful businesses, Ashley has turned the Magpies into a profit-making machine.
This scheme does not sit well with fans though. The 50,000 Geordies that fill St James’ Park week in, week out are not bothered about projection sheets, profit margins or agent fees. They want a club to be proud of. Success, ambition. This is a long way away from the current regime.
The latest capitulation away to Southampton was not unexpected but it didn’t make it any easier to watch. The stark reality is this game and the remaining games of the season do not matter to the powers that be at United. A top half finish now is almost guaranteed, with no money spent on signings and a huge payday cashing in on their prized asset Yohan Cabaye. This season has followed Ashley’s plan to a tee. However, it does matter to the traveling Toon Army,who understandably vented their fury at the end of Saturday’s game.
Lack of ambition to bring success to the club has filtered down to the pitch. The manager knows they have achieved what they need to, and now so do the players. The season may on paper look to be a good one in years to come. A top half finish after a relegation scrap the year previous. In reality, though, it has been as turgid a season ever known on Tyneside. No desire to progress in cups, lack of willingness to finish as high in the table as possible and the sale of their crown jewel, Cabaye.
The negative atmosphere at the club is swallowing it like never before. St James’ Park is as quiet as it’s ever been on match days. The players look like they are already on the sands of Barbados, and manager Alan Pardew is running out of excuses for his side’s inability to perform.
Contrast this with Saturday’s hosts, Southampton. Just two points ahead, but streets apart from their lacklustre opponents. Fresh, energetic, English talent gives the fans a team to be proud of. Beautiful and effective football, conducted on a modest transfer outlay. Southampton seem like a club going somewhere, Newcastle quite simply do not.
Apparently a ‘big’ summer awaits United. Where have we heard that before?