Friday, August 10, 2007

The future: bright?

I doubt many fans of whatever hue would dispute the fact that our squad is stronger - perhaps significantly so - than it was when the fat lady sung at Vicarage Road on 13th May. Some of the dead wood has been cleared out and, although Captain Scott has headed back to the Big Smoke, we've bought astutely - with Alan Smith and Mark Viduka additional attacking options; Joey Barton a vigorous presence in centre midfield; Geremi a Swiss Army knife of a player; and Jose Enrique, David Rozehnal and Cacapa the well-regarded and desperately needed if little-known reinforcements for a defence notorious for being one of the flimsiest in the Premiership.

What's more, we've achieved all this without getting suckered into paying the sort of obscene fees that have seen the likes of Spurs plough through £40m in two months. Prudence is not something normally associated with Newcastle Utd, and certainly not with our spending habits, so this may mark a significant new direction.

I say "may" because it may be that Fat Sam's hands were tied. He spent most of July expressing his frustration that the revolving door at St James' Park wasn't exactly living up to its name, and demanding in not so subtle terms that the new Mike Ashley / Chris Mort regime cough up for some WD40. Allardyce claimed that numerous deals fell through because of the time it took for the dust to settle on the takeover; had things happened more quickly and smoothly, there's every chance we could have splashed out significantly more.

It might have been hoped that the departure of that pompous, moronic hot air balloon Fat Fred would herald a period of stability off the pitch, but the tensions between the outgoing chairman's managerial appointee and the new board over transfer activity suggests not. Relations may thaw if results are good, but if not, Allardyce's tenure could be short-lived.

For the fans at least, it's not all about results. Sure, Fat Sam got them by the bucketload at Bolton, often very much against the odds, but at the expense of footballing style which could most charitably be described as "robust". Winning regularly would be a habit we'd naturally all welcome - but not necessarily if that means abandoning any finesse. Of course, we had neither the winning habit nor any finesse last season, so in that sense things can surely only get better under Allardyce. 6th is still an achievable goal, but we will have to scrap against stronger Man City, West Ham and Portsmouth sides in particular, and the injury list already looks ominous.

Worth bearing in mind that the last time Smith and Viduka lined up alongside James Milner, they were playing in the Leeds side that was relegated from the Premiership. The Yorkshire club has since been relegated again to League 1, and today lost their appeal against a 15 point deduction for infringement of the rules about coming out of administration. Pause for thought, certainly - though I'm not quite as worried as if we'd brought the Curse of Hreidarsson upon ourselves, as Pompey have...


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