It has been another interesting week on the B&W planet but perhaps not as exciting as some would like. Obviously there’s an intense focus on players the club is reportedly looking at (a number that runs into the dozens if the media is to be believed) and positions to be strengthened.

But rather than new players rocking up on Barrack Road, we saw Dwight Gayle leave and join Stoke City on a 2-year deal. Gayle goes with our best wishes and we’ll all be grateful for the vital role he played in the Championship promotion season.

No disrespect to Dwight but it has been baffling as to why he has remained at United so long given his lack of minutes on the pitch, his loan spell at Championship West Brom and the baffling decision to extend his contract to 2024.

Even at his peak, Dwight was never a reliable goal-scorer in the PL but he will excel in the Championship. Good luck to the lad.

Gayle is another off the wage bill and joins Hayden, Hendrick, Clarke and Woodman joining Championship clubs with next to nothing coming back by way of fees. That is five seasoned members of a PL squad dropping a division with no value to the selling club bar the money we can save in wages. I’d expect those moves to have been greased by subsidised wages from our end.

We can get into discussions about who should go next but I’d expect Matt Ritchie, Federico Fernandez, Javier Manquillo, Karl Darlow, Matty Longstaff  to be in scope of exits. We might add Miguel Almiron and Jacob Murphy to that list too.

That first group of five players have all passed their sell-by dates as PL performers and do not represent the future of Newcastle United. I don’t wish to disrespect those lads as they have been good servants – particularly Ritchie and Fernandez but their declining potency is obvious.

We do need to lose players because we cannot hope to carry a squad of a size with them, not with the 2-3 players we hope to come into the club.

We probably realise it but we are still on the slow road to recovery from the malaise Ashley brought to United. That won’t be turned round with a click of the fingers and it is right we are patient.

For all of that, it is understandable supporters become anxious about recruitment. To take a glass half full perspective, United has added one out-field player to the squad that finished last season.

Admittedly, that is a mean assessment of the strengthening undertaken when Burn, Trippier, Targett (loan), Wood and Guimarães came in January and helped transform our fortunes. Making Targett’s move permanent with Pope and Botman coming in means the new owners have brought in seven players so far over the two windows with six weeks to go before the current one closes.

We know where the club’s priorities lie this summer and it is to strengthen in two key positions – a new striker and a new right-sided creative attacking player. We struggled for goals last season and if we are to take that big step into the top 10, top eight, those positions need to be strengthened. Howe’s whole modus of developing an attacking expansive style rests on recruits of sufficient quality.

Currently, our striker options are Wilson and Wood. I don’t accept Howe’s proposition of ASM or Joelinton occupying those roles as serious. Wood played his role last season in helping us avoid relegation but the consensus is he lacks the requisite quality for where we plan to go next.

Callum Wilson is an excellent striker but his injury record as he reaches 30 years of age isn’t going to get better. That said there will be a lot more intelligence in how he is trained and conditioned under Howe’s supervision than Bruce’s half-baked management.

Nevertheless, right now, we are way short in attacking positions. It is inescapable where we are weak.

Currently down the right side we’ve got Fraser, Almiron and Murphy. I was impressed by Fraser last season post January when his appetite, pace, technique and determination caused defenders problems.

Almiron and Murphy have both been at United long enough and given neither won the battle for the right hand spot in a team fighting relegation that might say something of Howe’s judgement of them. We are sorely short on the right-side and it is no accident it is such a priority.

Right now the thought of ASM leaving for Spurs or Chelsea as reported seems to be absurd given the paucity of our attacking options.

Most of the noise questioning the club’s recruitment comes from outside Newcastle United’s support. Most but not all but for my sanity I attempt to swerve the mad stuff on social media. There are sneers about how this doesn’t look like the “richest club in the world” (c) but they are rooted in ignorance.

There has been a widespread misunderstanding as to what would happen at the club following the takeover and it would appear some believe we’d be lashing money around in the style of Man City, Chelsea, PSG et al. But the football landscape has changed utterly since Russian, Qatari and Abu Dhabi money transformed those clubs.

Frankly, Newcastle United is not the “richest club in the world” by a very long chalk.

We have owners with huge resources but the regulations of the game mean it is not possible to go into the transfer market and make dreams come true with exorbitant fees and wages. We would be breaking the rules if we did that and there is a limit on the money that can be spent. We aren’t playing Fantasy Football, we do have a budget and right now even though it is clearly more than an Ashley-sized kitty. The club’s income is nothing like it should be and it hasn’t yet changed.

For all of that, I think United will strengthen in those positions. But that may take for us to lose more unwanted players from our payroll and bide our time.

I had anticipated United would have had some sponsorship deals lined up for this summer that would have provided more financial firepower but bar the NOON sleeve sponsor none has been incoming. Under Financial Fair Play this severely restricts our room for manoeuvre. Neither is it easily resolved with sponsorships connected to PIF as a result of new regulations for related party deals, which appear designed with us in mind.

It is no accident United have appointed Darren Eales as CEO but he doesn’t take up post until August. Eales has played a pivotal role in building Atlanta United in the MLS and that stretches into its commercial operation. That record and expertise is why Eales is here. But his success is not going to be realised for a further 12 months in my uneducated opinion.

It may be the case that Eales spends a lot of time in the US developing Newcastle United’s commercial muscle with corporate America. Again, this isn’t going to happen overnight so it is right we are patient to see how this all pans out.

Eales’ presence also speaks to the purpose of PIF’s strategy in buying United. I’ve seldom considered this move to be a vanity project and the sport-washing allegations are over-stated.

The Saudis have a plan to increase the value of the Public Investment Fund into a £2trn pot. They will achieve that by investing in their assets and increasing their value. £300m for Newcastle United is chicken-feed but in a decade’s time it is likely United could be worth three times that amount as well as serving several other purposes.

I have to refer to the series of podcasts true faith released last week all assembled by Alex Hurst which are fascinating in their depth and breadth, explaining the background to the purchase of the club and the strategic objectives of Saudi ownership of a prominent PL football club.

You’ll have to be a Patreon to get at them in total – so do yourself a favour and sign up for £6:60 per month – click here

But you can have a shorter summary for nowt – free here

I’d recommend this to the siren voices in the press who would do well to pipe down and give this all a listen – that’s not me sport-washing by the way, it is just becoming more informed. I’m in no way defending the horrific human rights abuses of the Saudi state. I deplore them.

United has added another appointment to its corporate team. John Devine has joined as the club’s legal counsel and a quick look at his bio with his employers (click here), Newcastle firm Robert Muckle will tell you a lot about his profile and expertise. His current offices are a short walk to SJP based as they are in Gallowgate at Wellbar Central. he’s a local lad and Mag.

Devine was recently involved in the panel overseeing the sale of Chelsea and his selection therein was in no small part to his expertise. That tells you a lot to his status within his profession. I’m no genius (you already guessed) but I think you can see where Devine is going to be involved from these words on the Robert Muckle site:

He (Devine) also has wide experience in commercial work specific to the sports sector, such as the commercial exploitation of image rights, sponsorship and endorsement contracts, broadcasting and licensing, event management. A good example of his work in this sector being the advice he has provided to professional clubs on stadium concert contracts at some of the best-known sports grounds in the UK.

Key thing for us to realise is that despite the very visible changes we’ve seen and the wave of positivity around United, there isn’t a bottomless well of money to draw from.

There isn’t a club in the country that is under as much scrutiny as Newcastle United so I suspect there is a sense within PIF to behave with propriety in developing United rather than turn a water cannon of money on and fuck the consequences.

For all of that, it is inconceivable we wouldn’t strengthen in those positions quoted and I really do believe we are going to have as enjoyable a season as we’ve had in a very long time.

But a caveat to that – a very good season for us now is finishing in the top ten or eight (I’m fond of saying 60 pts should be our target in 2022/23 (11 pts more than last season)).

I don’t expect us to win a trophy or finish in a European qualifying position this coming season. I’d be happy with a stable, top half of the table finish with a strong sense of us moving forward. I’d also expect us to recruit again in January and then again next summer. Evolution over revolution.

But we won’t be able to compete with the top six until there is a lot more money flowing through the club’s coffers and that just hasn’t happened yet. It will though, the people who will make it happen are getting into position.

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

Michael Martin @TFMick1892