The first week of January 2022 was nothing short of ridiculous. There has been such a huge emphasis on January being the holy grail in the quest to retain the club’s Premier League status that there was a massive explosion of speculation and expectation, and a deafening cacophony of absolute bollocks.
I don’t think anyone could have been prepared for the first week of January. We have had such a long period of time where any name mentioned in the media could be kicked in to the long grass with confidence – “there is absolutely no way we will be signing him” was easy to say. No matter what the name was. We just didn’t sign many players. On the rare occasion when we did it would happen on January 31st. This first week came as something of a shock to the system. Shock is underplaying it a little, to be fair.
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The last player we were linked with back in Ashley’s last summer was Hamza Choudhury, and the talk at the time was that Bruce had agreed a loan fee of £1m but the club wouldn’t stump up the money. Fast forward a couple of months and the new owners probably paid that to clean the windows at St James’s Park. Time has moved on pretty quickly.
What we have forgotten, as it’s been so long since we’ve been ‘involved’ in a transfer window, is that the papers are full of “Newcastle close in on” and “Magpies are in for” and 99.9% of the names are nowhere near being true. A couple of years ago when the bookies had us as favourites to sign Kylian Mbappe it was quite funny, and of course utter nonsense. It’s just not funny anymore.
What is obvious is that we need players in key positions as the recent, if not long term, neglect in our first team squad and academy has manifested itself into a crisis. There is an argument that could see an upgrade in every position. That, however, is never going to happen. It wouldn’t even be possible in the summer should we stay up; more’s the pity I hear you cry. We might need players, but the January window is an incredibly difficult window at the best of times, but sitting in nineteenth, with only one win across all competitions at the halfway point of the season, makes it significantly harder. Clubs are reluctant to sell their best players, as we’ve seen with Botman. As much money as we have, there is a domino effect with transfers. Lille would have to replace Botman and, although they would have money in their pocket, who would sell to them? Have they got a list of players they have identified to replace him? January is tough, regardless of how deep your pockets are.
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— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) January 12, 2022
We have signed a current England international though. The talk around Trippier’s signing felt different from the beginning. Back in December Eddie Howe was being asked about him and it felt like that one was always going to happen; I’m not saying I wasn’t surprised when I saw him get off that private jet, though! Chris Wood, however, came from left field. In all honesty, I thought it was agent/paper talk. I had been sucked in to the £50-70m players we had been linked to (sucker), and I felt that Wood was a name to fit the bill post FA Cup defeat – 30 unmet crosses etc. It was a local journalist who broke that story, and I wonder whether that’s the key.
We must be sceptical about most of the names we see crop up. I’ll admit, I let my guard down last week. It is difficult not to get carried away, spending hours watching YouTube reels of players you’ve never heard of then taking to Twitter to tell everyone “What a mint signing this kid would be”. What I have to keep reminding myself is that during transfer windows there is a collision between agents wanting to push moves or contract renegotiations for their players and a thirst from journalists for content to feed the hungry editors and desperation to drive revenue from clicks. Where Newcastle-related collisions occur, it is usually a bump that you can buffer off with a bit of T-cut. However, in this window it’s a full-on multiple car pile-up in thick fog on the M1 south of Sheffield – it’s complete carnage.
We are a million miles away from where we where in the summer, or for the past 15 years, I guess. One thing is for sure, if we stay up this January will be nothing in comparison to what is to come. The list of players who will be out of contract at the end of the season is off the scale and we will be “closing in on” all of them, honest.
Tim Wood – @Geordie2Step