It was clear to a lot of us that we needed recruitment in various areas and while some of the gaps were filled, we also got the surprise package of Wayne Routledge. Not all of the players met with universal glee and obviously the jury is out for all of them still. Each were signed for an ‘undisclosed fee’ which seems to be the order of the day in many modern transfers. So it’s difficult to conclude whether they’re value for money or not, but here goes anyway:
Danny Simpson – Signed from Manchester United after an initial loan spell, in which he impressed management and supporters alike with his graft. Having previously been out on loan at the unwashed, Ipswich and Blackburn, he seemed adept at fitting straight in and was solid enough during his temporary stay. Chris Hughton went back in with a bid thought to be somewhere between £500k-£1m. He’s displayed a good overall attitude and seems fully committed out on the pitch. Probably lacks a bit of finesse but is keen to get forward in support and disprove my theory that he wouldn’t help to get balls in the box. Definitely good enough overall at this level but having dropped a few notable clangers already in his time in black and white, it’s still ‘wait and see’ in terms of how he would fair should we go up.
Rating – 7
Wayne Routledge – Signed from QPR for probably something like £1,25m-£1,75m, just a year after signing for them from Aston Villa. Routledge played particularly well at St James’ earlier in the season and as a result, there was a massive buzz around town when his signing was announced by the board. There was a cynical opinion that he had proved to be inconsistent after being unable to hold down places at Spurs and Villa but in fairness injury and circumstance were against him. After a busy last half hour on his debut when he replaced Lovenkrands against his old team Crystal Palace, Newcastle fans were mildly optimistic. And despite a couple of poor games, which were team occasions at Derby and Leicester, Routledge has proved to be a great outlet on the right, full of pace and direct running. He broke his duck in style against Coventry and also won a penalty. Unfortunately he’s been out injured since that game but when he returns, more of the same will undoubtedly see him become a popular figure at St James’.
Rating – 8
Mike Williamson – Signed from Portsmouth and even though Pompey had forked out £2m for him, it’s believed Newcastle secured his services for something in the region of £500k-750k due to their financial issues. Made a convincing debut against Crystal Palace and after ten minutes of blowing out of his a*se, he was solid and dependable for the 90 minutes and picked up the Man of the Match award for his efforts. Pretty good going considering he’d barely played any first team football in almost seven months. He’s since played every game, other than the Swansea game and has proved that he has ability on the ball to go with stout defending. The partnership he’s formed with Coloccini is arguably as solid as the one formed by the Argy and Steven Taylor and is as reassuring as it is surprising to Toon fans after being used to defensive frailties. Looks like Mr Reliable but I just hope he’s not caught out by slicker movement and a striker with genuine pace.
Rating – 8
Leon Best – Signed from Coventry City for something like £500k with his contract running out in the summer. Life before Cov was spent largely on loan from Southampton, first at Sheff Wed and then lower down the leagues at Bournemouth and Yeovil in League One. Following an injury to his cheekbone, Best began wearing a protective mask and when his return from injury saw him scoring three goals in successive matches, he made the choice to keep wearing it, earning the nickname “Zorro”. That became a gimmick for Coventry City fans, who also started wearing masks as a tribute. His form this season was good but a dip before and during the Christmas period saw him roundly booed by home fans who questioned his effort and attitude. So ‘young and cheap’, certainly two characteristics which fit in with the current regime’s policy but what else does he offer? He seems to be quite mobile and for some reason I’ve noticed, a canny knack of using that to close down ‘keeper clearances quite effectively. But so too did Marlon Harewood and in fact, that’s who I’d liken him to. Neither have seemed to offer us anymore than we already had in my opinion. Neither is blessed with searing pace or the ability to beat a man with a trick. And we have target men in the squad already who chip in with goals on the sort of frequency Best seems to, if not more. And unfortunately where Harewood had the knack of scoring, Best is yet to get off the mark. He should be given more time but it’s what the kid does with that opportunity that will be interesting to see. I just hope he’s not as much of a let-down as the person who’s No.20 shirt he took.
Rating – 6
Fitz Hall – Technically a loanee from QPR but here for the Championship duration as he’s on loan until the end of the season. Well-travelled and with experience in the Premiership, Hall appeared to be half-decent back-up. But after making his debut against Cardiff and forming a solid backline with Williamson in the middle, he stayed in the side for three games. Hall probably suffered because of poor team performances but was dropped after the Swansea game and hasn’t had a sniff since. Looks solid enough with a bit of pace but probably likely to struggle if we make the step up next season. I don’t envisage Hughton looking for a permanent move for him.
Rating – 7
Patrick Van Aanholt – Signed from Chelsea on loan and a canny little left-back from Holland. Has actually returned home now and sat on the bench in Chelsea’s cup-tie against Stoke but I thought he deserved a mention. He was dependable and bright overall, although he started off quite tentatively, you could see with more games he had the presence and ability to improve. It’s not clear what the outcome is for Enrique following his hamstring pull against Barnsley but it’s expected that we won’t go back for another loan to cover. Come the summer though, it could be an option to pursue, should he be available.
Rating – 7
Jóan Símun Edmundsson – Signed on loan from B68 in the Faroe Islands and I thought he should get a mention because good things were being said about him. However, he’s had little chance to make any sort of impact yet in the juniors or ressies but watch this space for now I guess.
So there you go, that’s what I think but what do I fecking know?