Thursday, December 23, 2004

View From The Away End

2005 is almost upon us, and that means the reopening of the transfer window, for one month only. For Newcastle, does that mean blessed relief or the continuation of our bleak midwinter? Who might be out? Who should be in? And will anyone take Bramble for a couple of pints and a packet of pork scratchings? We asked opposition fans for their thoughts.

The participants:
Pete of Round And White
Kenny of Parallax View

Pete: "Perhaps Souness isn't the Scrooge that the media have portrayed him as after all. He cancelled the players' Christmas party, not because he's a killjoy (ha), but because they apparently decided to celebrate Christmas a few weeks early in a London hotel and lost it. The only real surprise for me is that we didn't see a 'Toon Players Go Crackers At The Ritz' a headline on the back of a tabloid.

However, the whole affair really hasn't helped his rapport with his players, regardless of whether they deserve it or not. Hence it's likely that we'll see a few changes in January. Laurent Robert has recently been quoted as saying that Graeme isn't talking to him anymore. So he'll be off then, although I think we all saw that one coming. However, with Viana back in Portugal, they'll need a proper replacement for the mardy Frenchman.

And with Shearer retiring at the end of the season, Souness is likely to be looking for another forward to warm the bench alongside Ameobi, while Kluivert and Bellamy begin to form what could be an effective partnership up front.

However, Newcastle's priority is a central defender (or even two). Titus Bramble, once hailed as a future England star, is simply not up to the job. Neither is Robbie Elliot. Liverpool's third goal on Sunday was a good example of this. Milan Baros was left completely unmarked with a clear-run on goal, and you have to feel sorry for Shay Given who has such a comically bad partnership in front of him.

If either of them were to play alongside an experienced defender, then Newcastle would probably stop leaking easy goals. Will Boumsong be the man? I doubt it. If a Premiership club is thinking of buying from Rangers, it's usually a sign of desperation. Newcastle need to look very hard, perhaps in the Championship, and see if there is a solid centre-back playing for one of the top teams there.

Finally, I like to point out that before I started writing this post I was going to comment on the rumours surrounding potential transfers, but unfortunately after browsing the various football websites, the only player apparently linked with a move to Newcastle in the transfer window is the above-mentioned Frenchman. I'll leave the reader to make their mind up as to whether this is a good or bad indication of the current state of the club.

Kenny: "Can't say I've given this an awful lot of thought, but if I could be Graeme Souness for the period of the transfer window I'd be a very worried man, probably, as your squad doesn't seem right at all, imbalanced in quality and personality. On the other hand, the window offers very little in the way of choice or value, you're unlikely to get relegated, so probably imprudent to splash the cash too much when it could be spent wiser on a better choice of players in the summer.

But some sort of spring cleaning is required. One of the idiots has to go, and Dyer looks most dispensable and is still young enough to bring in at least £3m. A commanding centre-half wouldn't go amiss but you won't really find any sort of quality going cheap in the window. Hierro hasn't settled in at Bolton and wouldn't be a long-term option but I could see the Newcastle crowd taking to him as a kind of Phillipe Albert character. Boumsong's a bit risky for the price quoted, in my view. Best bet of the Championship defenders would be Millwall's Darren Ward, or you could be cheeky and pinch Calum Davenport from Spurs (not getting in first team at the Tottscum and very far from the finished article, but huge potential nonetheless).

If all else fails, Tomas Repka I believe could go free to a good home. Battersea won't take him because of the rabies infection risk, but he's the sort of nutter Souness loves to bring into the mix (cf Ruddock and Dicks in his Liverpool days).

Thanks to Pete and Kenny for their comments.


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