It’s safe to say that Newcastle United have had a fantastic January window. Five new faces all adding experience and quality to the squad and most likely the starting XI. All five brought in with one mission – keep the club in the Premier League.
The January window was, unfortunately, open to everyone. I thought I would look at the February fixtures and see what has been going on at our fellow league strugglers and how that would help or hinder them as we approach the business end of the season.
Beginning with dirty Leeds. Currently 7 points ahead of us but they could easily be dragged back down into the scrap at the bottom. Looking at the next five fixtures they have Villa and Everton away, then home against ManUre and then travel to Anfield. Following the trip to the red side of Liverpool they entertain Spurs. Dirty Leeds had a quiet window and seemed to spend most of it trying to prevent West Ham from buying Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips, unfortunately they remain at Leeds. They tried to sign Minamino on loan from Liverpool but to no avail. They therefore go into February with the same squad as they began the season with. A number of players are due back from Injury including; Phillips, Cooper and Banford. There are rumours of some financial difficulties at Leeds United so this could be a story to watch in the coming weeks and months. Hopefully they go bust and get relegated before the season finishes.
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Everton are three points behind Leeds and four points ahead of us before we play them on Tuesday. There is no return to St James’s Park for Rafa as he has been replaced by the cheeky cockney conman, Frank Lampard. Lampard did notpull up any trees at Chelsea or Derby so it is a curious appointment – but aren’t they all at Everton. Aside from us they have a home game against Leeds followed by a trip to Southampton then home to City and off to White Hart Lane (It’s still White Hart Lane, it’s built on the same site – I’m not calling it anything else) and then it’s back home to take on Wolves. January began with a fall out between Rafa and Lucas Digne who departed to Villa. Rafa signed El Gahzi from Villa and Mykolenko from Dynamo Kiev. A young full back from Rangers, Nathan Patterson also arrived before Rafa got the ‘heave-ho’. Lampard has been quick to act and added misfits Van der Beek and Deli Ali to the ranks. Hopefully they have absolute nightmare debut’s on Tuesday night. It would be delicious for Lampard to take Everton down for the first time in their history. Fans deserve it too.
Norwich seem to have found form at precisely the wrong time. One point above us and with two wins on the bounce. Both defeated teams sacked their managers after losing to Norwich which says it all. Up next they have Palace and Man City at home, with trips to Liverpool and Southampton before returning to Carrow Road to play Brentford. Norwich made zero signings in January, money seemingly a big issue for them having spent £70m in the summer. Cantwell, who was heavily rumoured to be heading to Tyneside, ended up heading out on loan to Bournemouth. With Norwich already utilising their maximum amount of loans it has left them hamstrung this January. Dean Smith seems to be getting some sort of tune out of them. They did the job we needed them to against Watford, but it’s time to return to normal service now please lads.
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Thanks to a convincing defeat by Norwich, Watford have appointed 165-year-old Roy Hodgson to replace 143-year-old Claudio Ranieri. Hodgson is the 7433rd manager at Vicarage Road in the past five years. His first game is away to fellow strugglers Burnley which is before we play Everton which could change things at the bottom. They are then away to West Ham, home v Brighton, away at Villa Park, home v Palace and then they travel to Old Trafford. Six new players arrive at a cost of £22m, with Hodgson having no input in these signings at all. It’s going to be interesting to see what he can do with them, although not on the pitch as the football will be dreadful. He does have a knack of keeping teams up, here’s hoping that ends this season though.
Burnley lost Chris Wood to a relegation rival, which was careless. They do have three games in hand over us and are only three points behind us. The first of these games, as I mentioned earlier, is Watford this weekend. They then face difficult trips to Man Ure and Liverpool, followed by a trip to Brighton and then they finish February with a home game against Spurs and an away trip to Selhurst Park. Maxwel Cornet arrived back from AFCON this week however Barnes and Vydra are both side-lined with injury. Dyche bag will give a debut to deadline day signing Wout Weghorst (what a name) this weekend. I’ve got to be honest, I’d rather they kept Wood and we had signed Weghorst who looks a better investment and player in my opinion. That’s why I’m sitting here writing this and not wearing a Castore tracksuit up at Benton. Although I am available to help Eddie, if you are reading.
It’s undoubtedly going to be nip and tuck, with every game being a must win for us. If it’s a must win every game for us, then so it is for the other five teams who are down here as well. Looking solely at the next five games we have undoubtedly got the better fixtures, so we must make them count. Hopefully the new lads settle in immediately and Chris Wood proves me wrong and starts scoring the goals we need. Suddenly May 22nd doesn’t look that far away.