Even the most pessimistic of Toon supporters would probably entertain ideas of us at least making a play-off spot this season. Sure, we’re only a third of the way through the season and there’s always the chance that injuries could seriously affect our small squad, but it would be a brave man who’d bet against us finishing in the top 6.
Promotion, then, is a distinct possibility.
In terms of our squad, what we have is more or less the players we had at the end last season minus nine regulars and with the addition of a couple of players on loan. Some of the nine we’ve lost won’t be missed but some people would argue that a few of our better players were amongst the leavers, such as Bassong, Beye, Martins and maybe even Duff.
Arguably then, on paper we have a weaker team than the one that got relegated last season. That’s not the full story of course because one of the reasons we were so dismal last season was because we kept changing manager every 5 minutes. This season we’ve had consistency in that area and Hughton’s managed to motivate the team. I think consistency is worth a lot in terms of results but is it enough alone that the current squad would be able to hold their own in – and avoid relegation from – the Premier League?
I have my doubts on this point and can’t help but feel that significant squad additions will be necessary of we’re to survive in the top flight. By ‘significant’, I don’t mean the overpaid, late-career wasters we’ve taken on in the past, but rather our scouting network needs to find younger, talented players who are of Premiership standard. Sure, we also need ‘players for the future’ with the potential to excel but if we get promoted we’re going to need players who can – to coin a phrase I really hate seeing on job adverts – ‘hit the ground running’.
This is of course going to take money. Unless out scouting network is absolutely top-notch and more secretive than MI5 any potential Premier League newbie is going to be on the radar of other clubs too and will command a higher price accordingly. The so-called ‘Arsenal Model’ relies on finding undiscovered talented and developing players, which is a fine idea, but that assumes you already have a squad who can do the business at the moment so that can devote time to developing the younger players.
It seems to me that Hughton isn’t going to be able to splash too much cash in the January transfer window so, if we were to get promoted, we’ll probably just have the summer to build a team capable of surviving in the Premier League.
Of course, building a team means Ashley needs to spend some money. I don’t for one minute believe Ashley intends to stay in the long run. I’m guessing he’s prepared to stay for the rest of this season and the next before formally putting the club back on the market but I suspect he’d take a ‘good offer’ at any time. This might be inclined to breed short-termism and a succession of loan players, which is a false economy in my opinion.
So what do you think? What’s necessary for Newcastle United to survive in the Premier League? How much money needs to be spent to build a capable team? Is Ashley up to the task?