NUFC unlikely to be held to ransom over transfers

NEWCASTLE UNITED have already buckled once, but January threatens to test their patience and principles, writes Stuart Rayner.

Newcastle United striker Demba Ba
Newcastle United striker Demba Ba

ALAN Pardew is determined to stick to his principles this month, but already he has twisted Mike Ashley’s arm to break one of the owner’s.

If Newcastle United are not careful they could be sitting ducks in this transfer window.

It is well known the Magpies are desperate to infuse an anaemic squad with fresh blood. The imminent sale of Demba Ba means other clubs will see them as having money burning holes in their pockets – even if the reality is little more than loose change.

It means when the phone rings from Pardew, pound signs will light up in the eyes of chairmen, managers and agents alike. As he addresses the media without his mobile ahead of the FA Cup tie with Brighton and Hove Albion, Pardew jokes he must have ignored “28 calls” yesterday morning.

But for all the criticisms of Ashley’s Newcastle, being able to be taken for a ride is not one of them.

You might argue it is why they are in this mess in the first place, but they showed in the summer they are prepared to walk away from a deal if the price is not right. Other chairmen must envy their restraint.

Mathieu Debuchy, Douglas and Andy Carroll were all targeted in August, but when their clubs asked too much, the Magpies took flight – temporarily in the case of the Lille right-back.

A £5bn television deal will wash through Premier League coffers next season, but Pardew is determined to guard it carefully because that is what Ashley pays him to do.

“It’s incredibly difficult with the new TV contract,” the manager reflected yesterday.

“We all recognise we want to keep the finances as they are and we don’t want them to escalate any more but that doesn’t really happen.

“They go up every year for whatever reason but there mustn’t be a significant jump because of the new TV deal, otherwise it’s going to go to players and agents and I think that’s wrong. I think chairmen recognise that and agents do as well. It’s just not right.”

It is an honourable stance, although Newcastle will probably end up doing more than most to put food and plenty more besides on the table of agents this month courtesy of the deal struck with Ba’s army of advisers when he joined from West Ham United 18 months ago.

If Ba’s agents did very well out of his £7.5m move to Chelsea, Newcastle did not. It is why Ashley will demand more frugality in the coming weeks. There is a school of thought that January is a bad time to buy, a period best left to panic signings because the sellers only take advantage of desperation to jack up prices and offload duffers.

Having seen the effect Papiss Cissé had on the second half of Newcastle’s last season, Pardew does not subscribe.

“You have less options for sure but it doesn’t mean to say it’s more difficult,” he retorts. “There’s always a player who can enhance a team.

“I spoke to David Moyes on Wednesday night and they took (Nikica) Jelavic in this window 12 months ago and he transformed them from a midtable team to a top team. That’s what a striker can do.”

Still, compromises have had to be made. Newcastle are not supposed to sign players over the age of 26, yet just such a right-back is set to put pen to paper there today.

“Getting Debuchy over the line has been difficult in terms of the policy we’ve got,” Pardew concedes. “He’s 27, so you could argue we’ve broken that already.”

The transfer front is not the only one Pardew must show patience on.

“We’re in an unprecedented year in terms of the blows we’ve taken on the injury front,” he argues. “The thing that worries me is getting them back and that’s why I’m on constantly on to my (medical) team.”

The temptation will be to put Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Steven Taylor in before they are ready, but it is one they must resist.

At least they can bank on the patience of fans, who have largely reined in their frustrations during a run of 10 defeats in 13 games. “I like to think our fans are more knowledgeable than they’re given credit for,” says Pardew. “When you look at us and the teams we’re putting out, and the team we could put out, we’re a million miles from that.

“I think you start getting questions asked if you get injury after injury in training but we haven’t had that. We’ve had it in games where people are stretched. When we get them back that’s when our crowd could change, if we are still losing games.

“I also think we’ve put in honest performances. We’ve had tough teams and that’s affected the figures.”

Eventually, though, the figures will have to add up. The ones that matter to supporters will always be in the league table and not the balance sheet.

Journalists

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