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All Newcastle United Needs Is 11 Cheik Tiotes

Photo by kevinmcc

He’s been one of the bargains of the season. The Ivorian defensive midfield who joined Newcastle for £3.5m has taken to the league like he’d played in it for years. I recently went to see Birmingham against Newcastle at St Andrews. I watched it like many games, with my Dad. After another smart turn and lay off by the aforementioned Tiote, my Dad turned to me and said “How we couldn’t do with ten more like him.”

I knew he didn’t mean ten more African defensive midfielders. Instead like Mike Ashley he shared the desire for young exciting players that cost little and grew with the club. The biggest issue with this transfer policy is that fans don’t like the selling aspect, and who would? Like many, I was disappointed with the sale of Andy Carroll but I’d be lying if I didn’t think the £35m held massive potential for the club’s future playing staff.

After all, the policy of well-scouted transfers can unearth real quality. Take Hatem Ben Arfa for example. He may now be nursing a broken leg, but in his four appearances prior to that, he looked exciting. A comparison to David Ginola or Laurent Robert seems too easy but you can bet either would have been proud of Ben Arfa’s strike against Everton at Goodison Park.

Signed in January for £5m, his move to Newcastle was anything but smooth. A month of drawn out transfer negotiations saw OM president Jean Claude Dassier claim the deal was off. It was on, rinse and repeat. During this time Ben Arfa had refused to train and flew to Newcastle in a bid to seal his move away from France.

Depending on how you viewed the situation, it suggested one thing, Ashley was either a tough negotiator or cheap. Either way he was the antithesis of his predecessor Freddy Shepherd who regularly bowed to the demands of player agents in a desperate bid to bring home the club’s first domestic silverware since the 1969 Fairs Cup.

Graham Carr, the club’s chief scout, and Chris Hughton both explained that the Tiote deal, much like Ben Arfa’s, was a careful one. The reports conflict slightly but claims they had watched him at Anderlecht, Roda JC and more recently FC Twente, completed the dossier that made those in charge decide he was the right man to give the midfield strength. He also came with a glowing report from former Twente manager Steve McClaren. So when he was offered to those in the Premier League, both Newcastle and West Brom moved to secure him.

Carr also revealed that France is a big market for the club as they are still held in high regard there. He mentioned Tiote’s international colleague Gervinho as one target as well as Kevin Gamiero of Lorient. Nearby neighbours Belgium is also a constant scouting ground with the club represented at the recent Anderlecht vs Genk match, where it’s likely they were watching Jonathan Legear. His suggested price of around €3m fits the club policy and Newcastle are desperate to secure a long term solution to the lack of depth on the right hand side.

His poor injury record won’t have gone unnoticed and with Newcastle operating a risk assessment type policy, no facet is overlooked. Re-sale value is the new buzzword, and when you consider that some of this season’s players like Danny Simpson and Mike Williamson only cost £1.75m combined, the frugal approach doesn’t seem such a bad idea.

Using a mixture of scouting and asking those within the game, they use all the available resources when identifying targets. Take Leon Best who was recommended by former Arsenal and Republic of Ireland player Liam Brady. Carr also mentioned discussions he had with Sven-Goran Erikksson about Gervinho who won’t be as cheap as many of the recent purchases.

The real problem with this style of transfers is the risk of not always finding quality. The concept of paying peanuts gets you monkeys being the argument of those cynical of the new transfer strategy. There have been failures during Ashley’s tenure. James Perch looks well out of his depth but at £1.5m you’d think the club would recoup a fair portion of that fee. Spanish striker Xisco, however, who cost £6m, makes the mind boggle. An assist against Aston Villa at the start of the season made you think he had a future, all be it in the unorthodox position of right wing. He’s now back at Deportivo on loan from whom he joined Newcastle with his future at the Magpies not looking likely.

Ashley’s history means many will never trust him. That image wasn’t enhanced by the sacking of Chris Hughton who did all that he could and was much loved by the fans. So while the mega fees and star names are unlikely to be joining Newcastle soon, it would appear they want to go a different route. And instead of buying the stars, they want to make them.

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  1. dave

    April 11, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Matt – Boreoff

  2. besitzer

    March 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    With £35m Newcastle could buy exactly 10 more Tiotes. Ivorian football players seem to adapt well to Premier League requirements. Just look at Didier Drogba and the amazing things he did for Chelsea.

    • Matt

      March 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      It wouldn’t really buy 10 Tiotes. It would only pay for their transfer fees and you’d have to come up with about twice that, over the course of their contracts, to pay their salaries.

  3. Gaz Hunt

    March 21, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Absolutely agree – he’s a wonderful player.

    The first two players I’d sign in my football squad would be Tiote and Modric.

  4. Adam

    March 21, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Nice article bringing to light a great, non-limelight player. Barton, Carroll, and Nolan may have gotten the press this season but it has been the play of Tiote that has solidified Newcastle in midtable up from the Championship. I’m curious on your opinions on the Enrique sale rumors.

    One thing to consider that the Tiote type signings (especially for the fee) are not going to be the norm, regardless of the thoroughness of your scouting. Regardless, I am content with the current seeming gradual progress at the club and understand that you are not going to rebuild from the Championship to a European footy contender overnight. Now if they can manage the Carroll money wisely and bring in 1 or possibly 2 quality premiership starting 11 players and 1-2 quality subs (maybe even a youth player or two) I would be over the moon.

    Dan: great points on Souness. I had a conversation about the team pre and post Souness a couple of weeks ago. Crying shame.

    • CHN Robert

      March 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      I’ll jump in, if you don’t mind. I love Jose Enrique. His creativity and chemistry with Jonas Gutierrez on the left side has been integral in generating offensive pressure this year. He’s improving on his crosses, and by the way, he plays pretty good D as well.

      However, if somebody out there is willing to pay more than fair value for him, like Liverpool was with Carroll, I think it’s good policy to sell.

      • Adam

        March 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm

        Robert: I agree with you and will add that if he is to be sold, it is of the utmost importance to bring in an adequate replacement (or two) for Enrique should you get a ‘crazy’ offer in for him.

  5. ThompsonLives

    March 21, 2011 at 9:57 am

    The plural of Tiote is not Tiote’s. Adding an apostrophe-s does not pluralize something, it makes it possessive.

    • ThompsonLives

      March 21, 2011 at 10:39 am

      Cheers to whomever edited the article title.

      • The Gaffer

        March 21, 2011 at 12:36 pm

        Shut up ThompsonLives! 😉

        Thanks for catching the punctuation error. I fixed it.

        The Gaffer

  6. Dan

    March 21, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Great article, good point, especially when you look at the damage Graeme Souness did to us. I reckon his transfer policy in particular ruined the club and effectively pushed Shepherd out for good. Bellamy and Robert out, 10 mil for Luque and 8 for Boumsong!? And I reserve a special pot of disgust for that Scouser Owen who cost us 17 million and treated the club like a paycheck dispensary, which, under Souness especially, it was. Sibierski was free and he kept us in the UEFA cup! However, I think that, and you make the point with Perch, scraping the bargain bin of the championship is a policy that will only pull teams down the table. Beckford’s purchase didn’t do the Toffees any favours to begin with, although he’s coming good.

    (Just to nit pick, the Fairs cup wasn’t a domestic trophy. 1955 FA cup. Been in plenty bloody finals since then though.)

  7. Jo Fraiser

    March 21, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Great article.

    Very well written


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