Confusion abounds amongst Toon fans as to exactly what’s in store for us during the remainder of this transfer window. The less speculative fan might suggest we “wait and see” but there are others who like a bit of speculative ranting or raving – good or bad – about how things are going. And why not?
The Dalia Lama once told me that the root of all suffering is craving; specifically craving to want things to be different to the way they are. Stop that craving, he said, and all suffering will cease. I have it on good authority that the Dalia Lama is a Blackpool supporter though (orange kit you see) and I tend to feel if he was a Newcastle supporter he might have hoyed his prayer wheel out of the window in frustration by now.
Football, however, transcends all forms of Buddhism and surely a wee bit of craving for difference won’t hurt. But first let’s throw a finger in the air other than a singular middle digit pointed at Mike Ashley – let’s try to gauge where we are now.
We have hired Demba Ba, Sylvain Marveaux, Yohan Cabaye and Mehdi Abeid, and we have fired Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and Ben Tozer. Let’s assume for the moment that if Enrique goes we get in a replacement fairly close in ability (just for the sake of this discussion).
Will the ins and outs improve the squad in a significant enough way?
Aha but what, you might ask, counts as significant? Well, Pardew had this to say:
“We believe we can have a successful season and move forward. Last season was very much about stability and making sure we stayed in the division. This year will be about getting a reputation and moving forward in the right direction as a football club.“
We finished 12th last season, so ‘moving forward’ would indicate that we should aim to finish in the top 11 next season. However, given that we were only a point adrift of a 10th place finish, let’s up the challenge a bit and say we’re aiming for a top 9 finish.
So now we can rephrase the question and ask:
Have we improved the squad enough for finish in the top 9?
Now you may well say: “Bah. Top 9? I’d rather gnaw my own leg off. I want top 6.” But I’m being extremely cautious here in my interpretation of Pardew’s meaning when he says ‘getting a reputation and moving forward’.
I would like to think we’ll add a decent striker to the squad yet, maybe a defender too (central or right back) and possibly someone like Neil Taylor to act as backup to whoever our first choice left-back is (Enrique or the similar replacement we mentioned earlier), but let’s not count on that.
Could it be that we have actually already done enough in the transfer market to allow Pardew to achieve his stated aims for the club?
I seem to remember our ’5-year plan’ was to be contending for European football by the end of it, although I forget now when that particular 5-year plan started and how it fits in with any other 5-year plans we may have made subsequently. Didn’t we also have a 3-year plan once?
On the subject of these plans. it’s a source of irritation to me that we always seem to be left more confused after club announcements these days than we were prior to the announcement. Staying with the Buddhist theme we were on earlier, it’s a bit like a Koan* where you have to meditate on the thing for about 30 years while a Zen Master slaps your back with a cane. Then you suddenly become enlightened in a sort of ‘aha’ moment.
Anyway, I’m starting to digress again (as usual!). The whole point of this article – confused as I’ve made it seem – is to ask what we have achieved from the transfer window as of right now in terms of the club’s aims as you understand them.
What do you think?
* Zen Master Unmon said: “The world is vast and wide. Why do you drive to work at the sound of the alarm clock?“, for example.