Newcastle United's January strategy revealed

ONCE bitten but twice shy, Alan Pardew is well advised to dodge the bullet that left Newcastle United feeling mortally wounded 12 months ago.

ONCE bitten but twice shy, Alan Pardew is well advised to dodge the bullet that left Newcastle United feeling mortally wounded 12 months ago.

Last Christmas Pardew was telling all and sundry that star man Andy Carroll, then viewed as the brightest English star in the Premier League galaxy, was not for sale “at any price”.

Partly fuelled by reassurances from the board and partly designed to ward off potential suitors, it was a tactic that backfired when Liverpool came up with an eye-watering offer that surprised everyone at St James’ Park.

Although never intending to mislead supporters with whom he still had an embryonic relationship, Pardew felt damaged by unfair accusations of dishonesty at the time. In actual fact, it was more a case that circumstances had overtaken him.

No wonder, then, that his approach to questions about Cheick Tioté, Fabricio Coloccini and Tim Krul is markedly different this time around. Openly admitting that United are “vulnerable” to big offers for Tioté, the Newcastle boss is going into the January transfer window well armed with the new financial reality that the club are operating in.

“Oh, I think I’ve learned from the Andy Carroll situation. And I think outside of Man City, every club has a player that is vulnerable,” Pardew said. “I think (our business) will depend on what happens. You never know with the window – it’s such a minefield of possibilities.

“We have one or two players here that top clubs, I’m sure, would be interested in. The one thing I would say on that is that they will have to pay a lot of money to take anyone out of here because we’re in a good position – not just on the playing side but financially as well. We’ll have to look at that in a structured way.” So where exactly do United stand with their prize assets in January?

Pardew says he doesn’t expect Tioté to leave and talk of his departure being a fait accompli – as it was last weekend – is just plain wrong.

Certainly the Ivorian is being watched by the top clubs but The Journal’s information is that he doesn’t want to leave. He feels a personal debt of loyalty to Newcastle for taking a chance on him and he is settled in the North East.

Quite a shy character, close friends say he is suspicious of what life in London would be like and believes his ambitions can be fulfilled in Newcastle. It probably helps that his agent is one of United’s favoured men – and unlikely to try to move him on unless the club are looking to cash in. Ironically, United’s cause may be helped by the sale of Carroll to Liverpool last year. Clubs have seen the danger of paying a January premium and the sort of mad spending that characterised the last days of January 2011 is unlikely to be repeated this season.

Perhaps that is just as well, because United’s supporters are unlikely to welcome another transfer window dominated by outgoings. It is high time that ambition, whether that means holding onto stars or bringing in one or two, was allowed to ferment at St James’ Park. Newcastle’s supporters are more realistic than anyone gives them credit for. But their faith in the project will be tested if Tioté is allowed to leave in similar circumstances to Carroll.

They may not be alone. How long – for example – will chief scout Graham Carr or manager Pardew be prepared to put up with a blueprint that has United placed as a stepping stone to greater things? Both Carr and Pardew were attracted to the project because they could see the long-term rewards of scouring the globe for rough diamonds and then polishing them up.

For a short period that might mean selling on top players to generate funds but, at some point, the club must show ambition and foresight to move up another rung. If Cabaye, for example, was sold in this window – an admittedly unlikely scenario – it might just prompt a rethink by the front-line personnel who have helped propel the club into such a lofty position in the Premier League.

Pardew met Mike Ashley yesterday and it was the subject of recruitment which dominated discussions. Ashley’s first question of his manager was “Where is our centre-half then?” Hopefully, that is an encouraging sign – as is talk of a bid for James Tomkins. We have given ourselves something to build on – absolutely that improves my argument (for bringing players in),” Pardew said. “I saw Mike last week and I am seeing him again on Thursday. I think it is very important that me and him communicate in this period. He is very focused on what a great season, we’ve having. He is very, very pleased and he wants it to continue.”

There are also contracts to sort out.

Coloccini’s new deal has moved to the head of the black-and-white agenda after Danny Simpson, somewhat surprisingly, decided to reject a slightly improved offer from Newcastle.

The defender is popular with management, his fellow professionals and United supporters but is playing with fire. Joey Barton’s decision to turn down a contract was never forgiven and he is now plying his trade elsewhere.

Pardew likes the player and will continue to pick him, but his mantra is rooted in cold, hard logic – a bit like United’s approach to January. Reflecting on Simpson, Pardew said: “I’m not disappointed or hopeful – it’s just business. He either does the deal here or he doesn’t – if he doesn’t we’ll get someone else.”

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