BILLY Davies believes Newcastle United will need a transfer war-chest of £60m to fulfil their Premier League potential next season.
Defeated but unbowed after an engaging tussle on Monday, the Nottingham Forest manager spoke from grisly experience when he tackled the question that Chris Hughton steadfastly refuses to countenance until his side are signed and sealed in the top flight.
Understandably, the Newcastle boss will have none of it until promotion is mathematically assured, until every box is ticked and every possible pratfall negotiated.
Sure, there was a lusty primal scream after both of United’s classy goals on Monday, but Hughton stuck to the tried and tested formula that has served his side so well this season.
The Newcastle boss has made life in black-and-white a glorious shade of beige this term; his collected, measured and diplomatic response to even the most acute crisis taking the steam out of the St James’ Park pressure cooker.
So it was no surprise when he applied his trusty straight bat to any queries relating to the mammoth Premier League challenge that awaits his United side.
Luckily, after graciously accepting defeat in his side’s chase of the Championship’s runaway leaders, Forest boss Davies was only too happy to expand on the challenge awaiting Hughton’s United.
At a conservative estimate, Davies believes it will take £40m of spending on players in the summer to help smooth the transition to the Championship – a sum that will be eye-watering to the parsimonious Mike Ashley. Davies advocates a further £20m spend in January.
The temptation will be to dismiss Davies’ words as those of a manager defeated in the battle to ascend to English football’s top table.
In truth, Hughton should use them as ammunition when he enters negotiations with Ashley over his likely budget.
As if he needed to remind anyone, Davies is not just another manager passing comment.
With a team cadged, borrowed and coaxed out of semi-retirement, Davies performed a minor miracle by taking Derby County from the brink of League One into the Premier League.
The club was not ready to ascend and, paralysed by the fear of over-spending like Leeds United, Bradford City and so many other ghosts of top-flight past, they kept the purse strings under tight control. Derby were horribly out of their depth, a couple of encouraging results against Newcastle aside. United fans will need no reminding that County chiseled four of their 11 points against their team.
The good news is that Davies believes Newcastle are no ordinary promoted side – their history, infrastructure and reputation will protect them against the kind of recruitment struggles that have undermined other promoted clubs.
The bad news, Davies asserts, is that the Premier League’s big guns have not stood still since United’s demotion.
“For teams like Newcastle and other teams that go up it is a very difficult task they will be facing,” he said.
“When I went up into the Premier League with my former club Derby, that year Tottenham Hotspur were already a very good premier division side and Tottenham spent £50m on top of what they had.
“But Newcastle is different from other clubs that have been promoted because of where they have come from. Don’t forget the wonderful job that Derby did coming from being financially in trouble and getting promotion after 11 months, and then it is a huge task for clubs like that and clubs like Forest and other teams.
“Newcastle are already sitting here with a budget that exceeds X amount of pounds with a squad depth that carries huge experience. They are more equipped than any other team in this division.
“But they will still need to spend and, as a greedy manager, I think at least £40m for the first window and £20m for the second is what is required.”
With promotion all but assured, saloon bar talk has already turned to which of Newcastle’s players might prosper in more rarefied Premier League air. Davies believes United have plenty capable of stepping up.
“This animal is ready-made for it, but of course it will need a new injection of players. There are a huge amount of players in the squad who you would have to say are top, top quality such as Jonas Gutierrez and Jose Enrique. They are top players.
“It is entirely up to the club what they do but they have very good experienced players here. Gutierrez, Enrique, Ameobi – you can go through this team. This team are more equipped than other teams have been in a similar position.
“They deserve great credit for getting into the Premier League, but they know themselves that it is a huge task to try and it takes huge spending to compete with the people that are already in there.
“They have the quality and the experience if you look at the depth of squad.
“I am sure the management staff will want to change it around and add to that which I think will certainly happen.
“But if you look at the team and look at the quality and the people they have got you would have you say that Newcastle United, having come form where they have come from, having experienced what they have experienced, have a good chance.
“The club’s infrastructure cries out for Premier League football whereas other clubs that are trying to get there, who deserve wonderful credit by the way, are still working on their infrastructure.”