Thursday, February 10, 2005

View From The Away End

Towards the back end of December we asked opposition supporters for their thoughts as to who we'd be parting with cash for during the January transfer window, and who Souness would be showing the door. You can read the opinions and speculations of Pete of Round And White and Kenny of Parallax View here.

Now that the window has shut and the dust has settled, we invited them to offer their verdicts on what did actually happen...

Pete: "Before I comment on Newcastle's transfer window acquisitions, it's inevitable that I first turn to the Craig Bellamy affair. Back in October I wrote the following for this column: 'Ultimately, Bellamy has to realise that he is likely to remain in the Newcastle squad, but that Souness is not a manager to take any nonsense. Furthermore, as a 'professional' he should just learn to accept his manager’s decision, regardless of whether he agrees with it or not. Luckily for Craig, Souness hasn't been particularly vindictive this time round.'

Unsurprisingly, Souness wasn't so forgiving the second time round and the gobby Welshman will now be continuing his career at Celtic. The whole situation has been handled badly by everyone involved. Bellamy has done his reputation no favours at all, and is now likely to see off his career in a footballing backwater. Meanwhile, Newcastle have lost an arguably very talented forward four months before Shearer's planned retirement and Souness's people skills have once again been exposed as being fairly minimal. The sale of Oliver Bernard to Southampton was unnecessary too.

The transfers of Boumsong, Babayaro and Faye are perhaps just what Newcastle needed and all three will add some steel to an occasionally wobbly defence. Faye is a suitable replacement for the injured Butt, while Babayaro will be keen to prove himself after his recent lack of opportunities at Chelsea. Whether Boumsong will become the commanding defender that Souness needs him to be is another question that will be answered over time.

However, none of these three players are the sort of players to push Newcastle to new heights (ie the Champions League). They're all useful and fairly solid, but the best result that can be hoped for is for the rest of the team to develop confidence in the back four, thus allowing them to get on with playing more efficient attacking football. In any case, it would seem sensible for Souness to concentrate on improving team spirit now, as apart from a shot at the FA Cup, this season can pretty much be written off.

Kenny: "In summary, my feelings are that there has been a lot of activity and money spent during the transfer window by Graeme Souness and yet the net result appears to be very little noticeable impact on the strength of the squad. Babayaro for Bernard is pretty much like for like, and with Celestine's playboy image I don't see this particularly helping the team's off-field behaviour patterns. Boumsong's a decent defender by all accounts but would have looked a better buy at half the price (which is what you might have got him for had you waited until summer).

Amdy Faye seems better value and yet appeared to be a panic buy due to Butt's injury, and now Butt seems to have miraculously recovered and in contention within weeks of the purchase it seems another buy of questionable relevance. Bellamy's departure to Celtic on loan will damage forward options but may improve dressing-room atmosphere. Reports that Kieron Dyer is looking more interested recently could prove a better bonus than any of the new signings.

Looks like a lot of short-term business as panic measures to keep Souey in the job a bit longer rather than cohesive long-term planning. Mid-table mediocrity beckons, I reckon, for this season and I don't see much better on the horizon with the current Shepherd / Souness management ticket.

Still, on the bright side, wouldn't surprise me if you beat Chelsea in the FA Cup next round...

We also canvassed opinion about Amdy Faye on the Portsmouth messageboard Fratton Faithful:

Blue Wozzy: "Would just like to say that you have a good 'un there, it's a shame that we are not 'big' enough (in his view) to keep hold of him. Hope he does well, except against us of course."

Raj: "When he's good he's very good, when he's bad he is VERY bad and when the transfer window opens and Newcastle are interested he is better than Patrick Vieira. The more games you get on Sky, the more consistent Amdy will be."

Nonsuch Mike: "Faye is a good player; on his day a brilliant player. I, for one, was sorry to see him leave the club, especially as the rumour was he was going to become a Villain with O'Dreary - a fate worse than death itself. I have been on record as saying that we need people of his creative skills to run the team from midfield.

Others say his agent is a double-dealing con artist who only wants Amdy to change clubs every six months so he, the agent, can con a fee out of all concerned. This, therefore, may put a doubt in people's minds about Amdy's loyalty to any particular club.

Our concern about the Toon is more manager-centred than over the vast depth of talent you have up there. Don't misunderstand me - I think Souness was a terrific player in his day. With his experience at a wide range of clubs, you should eventually be up there with the ManUres of this world. Everything takes time to gel. The key word in this last paragraph was 'eventually'.

Thanks to all those who contributed.


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