SO once again Newcastle United failed to land their stated target despite a month of haggling.
For August 31, 2011 read January 31, 2012. This time it was a centre-back, then it was a centre-forward – on both occasions Newcastle and Alan Pardew will be forced to make do and mend to get themselves through to the next transfer window.
But if anger and outrage swept through the city six months ago, the emotions felt somehow different this time around. After all, Newcastle ended the window among the biggest spenders thanks to the skilful capture of new number nine Papiss Demba Cissé – and crucially they did not cash in on any of their saleable assets.
There was disappointment at failing to land a defender but a feeling that, overall, this window has been a qualified success. The £9m move for Cissé could prove a master-stroke.
There had been sniffs and tentative enquiries but there were no big offers for the club’s blue-chip performers Tim Krul, Yohan Cabaye, Fabricio Coloccini, Demba Ba or Cheick Tioté. And keeping the claws of the top-four vultures away from their prize assets was just as important as securing defensive cover for first-choice pairing Mike Williamson and Coloccini.
“It goes down as a success for me, yeah. If someone had offered me at the start of the season, I’d have taken it,” Pardew said yesterday afternoon, as it became apparent the Adrian Mariappa move was not going to come off.
“This time last year there was a danger that momentum was going to be sucked away, but that isn’t going to be the case. And I do feel buoyed somewhat by Perch’s performances at centre-half. He’s done particularly well.
“He was one of our best performers at Brighton – Coloccini is back, by the way and will play – but that has buoyed me going into the season’s second half.”
Pardew has learned much in the last 12 months. Last year he had been an open book, quoted on his interest in everyone from David Beckham to David Bentley. He’d also, fatefully, assured Newcastle fans that Andy Carroll wasn’t going anywhere.
He was much more circumspect this time, and as a result Newcastle supporters can’t accuse him of leading them down a garden path.
The only moment of misinformation in Pardew’s public musings was when he said there would be no striker signing during the month – and Newcastle’s supporters will certainly forgive him that.
Did he want centre-back cover? Undoubtedly. But his reflections yesterday lunchtime illustrate the logic that underpinned Newcastle’s reluctance to get involved in moves for players elsewhere. He’d said: “If we don’t find Mariappa, I might not go looking for anyone else. Even now (yesterday lunchtime) there are one or two around that I could take, but I’m kind of thinking should I hold fire and wait for the summer and get a better deal and a better player maybe?”
It is an understandable way of thinking, and he will not have to lurch into crisis mode over the lack of a defender signing who was only ever going to be challenging Williamson.
This summer Newcastle intend to dip into the market and exploit contracts that are nearing expiration to land the likes of Jan Vertonghen of Ajax and Douglas at FC Twente.
Erik Pieters, off the radar this month due to injury, retains some big admirers in the corridors of power at St James’ Park. Don’t write off a bid for him.
But whatever Newcastle do we know they will try to squeeze every last drop of value out of their recruitment drive. United approach transfers now with a definite valuation and they do not deviate from that – which makes recruitment difficult but rewarding if it comes off. They tried to sign James Tomkins but felt West Ham’s valuation was unreasonable.
The same was true of Mariappa, who was desperate to join Newcastle. Ditto Ravel Morrison, who went to West Ham because the Hammers were prepared to cede to Manchester United’s demand for a buy-back clause.
Many of the other names were smokescreens or simply the work of over-eager agents. Aly Cissokho, for example, was never likely to move to Tyneside despite breathless reports of medicals and fees being agreed by French sports papers. So Pardew ended with a new number nine and managed to hold together a squad that’s rocketed Newcastle into European contention. It is a result that pleased him.
He said: “I am smiling and I wasn’t smiling last year. Our big players are going to stay, which is important. We’ve had enquiries but not for key players.”
Away from the transfer window, they will get back to business at Blackburn tonight still smarting from back-to-back defeats that included a damaging reverse at Brighton in the Cup. “I’m disappointed with the result on Saturday, although I wasn’t disappointed with the performance, and the physical and mental technical stats were as good as we’ve had,” said Pardew.
“The result was wrong and that’s something we’ve got to put right at Blackburn and against Villa. The next two games are very, very important.
“We’re in such a great position to attack that top six, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”