THE mood among Newcastle United supporters was one of doom and gloom on Monday night. When you openly chase your top transfer target only to see him turn up at a smaller rival, it always hurts.
But perhaps when Magpies fans look back on Loïc Rémy’s decision to join Queens Park Rangers, the over-riding emotion will be relief.
That is not to disparage the France striker’s ability. He may only have scored three times for Marseille this season, but for those of us who have not seen enough of the 26-year-old to pass a definitive judgement, the recommendation of Newcastle’s much-vaunted chief scout Graham Carr ought to suffice. Carr is not infallible, but it is probably safe to assume Rémy is a good player.
What is open to question, though, is the mentality of a footballer who would rather join a small west London club adrift at the bottom of the Premier League for wheelbarrow-loads of more cash. Actually, there is no question whatsoever. You do not need a PhD in psychology to work that one out.
Football is a career, just like yours or mine. We risk verging into hypocrisy if we saddle up our high horses about an employee looking to get the best deal for himself and his family when switching jobs.
Those footballers who do not consider the wages on offer before signing a contract are pretty daft. But some factor in other considerations too, like the standard of football they will be playing, the size and stability of their prospective club, and the chances of a much more valuable sporting currency – major silverware. On all those counts, Newcastle trump QPR hands down. Surely that outweighs the extra money in Rémy’s pay packet, which he will anyway only receive while they are still in the Premier League?
Rémy would have been a long way from the breadline on Tyneside, but appears to have signed up for wages exceeding those the Magpies were prepared to offer proven Premier League goalscorer Demba Ba. The similarities between the contract awaiting Rémy and the one Ba signed at West Ham United should set alarm bells ringing.
Mercenaries are a necessary evil in the modern game but by definition they are here today, gone tomorrow. Newcastle are trying to build for the long term. A quite blatant mercenary scored 48% of their Premier League goals this season before taking the Chelsea rouble. Ba’s 18 months at St James’ Park were a business arrangement the club did very well out of.
If the Magpies only signed players with Steven Taylor-like fanaticism for the black-and-white cause they would get relegated. There are people meeting that description all over Northumberland, but whether there are 25 on the planet with the collective ability to take the club where it wants to be is debatable.
The best Newcastle can hope for is that those they bring in give everything while here, and show due respect when offered the chance to leave. Not mercenaries, not Taylors either. Some of those rightly revered as black-and-white heroes probably did not give a stuff about the club until their agent told them the contract Newcastle were offering.
Alan Shearer (pictured right), a man with genuine passion for the Magpies, is quite right when he says in today’s Journal they have to pay the going rate for top talent, but Newcastle were not the only club interested in signing Rémy, just not on the eye-watering wages he wanted. Schalke, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan were mentioned in dispatches. All could offer European football next season and almost certainly next, all guaranteed to be playing in a pretty good division next season.
Newcastle, in truth, are not, though their chances of avoiding Premier League relegation are far better than QPR’s.
In a relegation battle, the character of your players is that much more important because it is when the going gets tough that you need the tough to get going. Harry Redknapp seemed to acknowledge as much at St James’ Park last month.
“I fined a player this week and found out he was on more than anyone at Tottenham,” revealed the QPR manager.
“How can that be? QPR have an 18,000-capacity stadium. Newcastle have 52,000 and I bet their wage bill is nowhere near ours. He has been fined two weeks’ wages – £130,000.
“Not too bad for two weeks, decent isn’t it? How do you handle a player like that?” By signing others on even more, it would seem.
Recent Newcastle history warns of the danger of employing footballers more interested in pay than points to drag you out of the mire. They had far too many in 2008-09, when a side including Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Mark Viduka were relegated. Never mind the other 37, you only needed look at the way they limply surrendered in their final match at Aston Villa to know there were far too many players not particularly bothered what division the Magpies would be in next season.
They were shown the door in the summer, Newcastle won the 2010 Championship and returned to the top flight stronger for it.
It is an episode in history no one who loves the club will want to see repeated. Perhaps Rémy has unwittingly improved the chances.