Mark Douglas: Why Newcastle need to present a transfer vision to stop Tyneside mood from curdling

Simply blaming the World Cup for efforts stalling is not good enough - and suggests same mistakes will be made

Newcastle signing Jack Colback
Newcastle signing Jack Colback

"Impressive”, “very good”, “promising” and “striking the right note”. Lee Congerton’s first foray into the public arena since inheriting the unwieldy title of Sunderland’s ‘sporting director’ brought acclaim from those who soaked in his message of calm and considered player recruitment.

He touched on keystone issues like the Academy and – backed up by three inexpensive signings – ticked plenty of the Black Cat boxes you’d expect. After a season of strife, the mood seems to be lightening on Wearside.

Compare and contrast with the general feeling of Newcastle supporters at Alan Pardew’s latest recruitment bulletin. “A lot of clubs and agents are waiting to see how players fare in the World Cup,” he said, proposing the thrilling tournament in Brazil as a reason for United’s apparently stalled efforts on the transfer front.

The reaction – inevitably – was more black and white cynicism. A month has passed since Newcastle’s season limped to a conclusion and Lee Charnley’s hope of asserting himself in his role with heavyweight signings in the first weeks of the summer has given way to more drawn-out efforts. A familiar fug of doubt hangs over the club’s need to bring in big name, ‘game-changing’ signings.

Yet if we look at it without the benefit of recent, depressing history, United’s efforts in the market so far are easily a match for Sunderland’s. A striker who was attracting covetous glances from Champions League clubs has been taken for under £2 million and a player with more than 100 Premier League appearances has been smuggled from their closest rivals for nothing. As starts go, it’s really not that terrible.

It is not what has been done that is troubling Newcastle fans, but what might not be. The concerns are the same at Sunderland , where the squad is not strengthened sufficiently to ensure against another battle to avoid the drop, but Congerton’s public presence is reassuring.

There is the basis of a plan there, and under Congerton there is a willingness to communicate it. It won’t get them to the promised land, but it gives them at least the chance to make a running start.

Newcastle don’t have that – and haven’t since the moment Mike Ashley took a sledgehammer to any fragile bonds of trust by appointing Joe Kinnear. It keeps them on the backfoot as the season draws closer.

United’s new managing director Lee Charnley prefers to dip right under the radar. He has not given an interview since being promoted to managing director and we are told he never will. His response – when pressed by supporters at a recent Fans Forum – about the messages the club sends out surrounding transfers ran as follows: “The board explained that the message it had continued to convey in relation to transfers – including in Lee Charnley’s statement in April – is, and will remain, its view. It was explained that any other messages or reports were unhelpful for both the club and its supporters and that the club will continue to work to address any issues.” Did you follow that?

The answer seems obvious: if Newcastle are asking their public to invest faith in the club once , they need to become more visible. They need to become more accountable and there needs to be shift towards engagement. It is not a sign of weakness or bowing to pressure to explain why you have adopted a certain direction.

Charnley is now the managing director of one of the biggest institutions in the city. Silence is not an option when pressing questions are being flung your way.

By building a dialogue with supporters from the very top, United may go some way to repairing the faith that was torched last season. It is no good sending Pardew out to do the club’s bidding any more – his voice is now a discredited one.

The howls of derision from the terraces in the final days of the campaign were a loud and clear clarion call that his pronouncements on recruitment and the club’s direction are quickly dismissed.

A voice from the boardroom in the public domain has been missing since Derek Llambias’ days and it has coincided with the mood on Tyneside curdling. Without it, we await that all-important concrete evidence of squad strengthening.

Perez and Colback are decent additions but Newcastle need two strikers with pedigree and a midfielder to carry the creative burden that was shed by Yohan Cabaye when he departed for Paris Saint Germain. To have not got one of those three priorities yet has put them on the back foot – to be told that the World Cup is the reason why is baffling.

United have known of this pressing need since January 31. Their scouting efforts go back two years and the meetings have been taking place for months, both in London, Hertfordshire and on the banks of the River Tyne at their favoured Malmaison spot. At every point they have known there was a World Cup, so why is it now being proferred as an excuse for a lack of movement on those key deals?

Whatever it took, United needed to broker those key additions quickly to avoid revisiting the same old questions. Without them, they have lost a chance to rebuild momentum – and their silence, once again, feels defeaning.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer