Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Reality bites

Because someone's got to look on the dark side of life...

The scenes at St James's Park this lunchtime were incredible - thousands of fans, many of them wearing freshly-lettered number 10 shirts, packed into the Sir John Hall Stand to witness Michael Owen stepping onto the hallowed turf as a Newcastle player for the very first time. No matter how cynical you are - and believe me I very often am - the sense of euphoria and optimism was irresistible, about as far away from last Wednesday's post-Bolton feelings of utter despair as possible.

But what's needed now is a sense of proportion. A dose of reality. An acknowledgement that the things that are crooked cannot be set straight that easily. Our club is sick, and the signing of one player - even if that player is England's top striker - is no panacaea.

The weight of expectation already resting on Owen's shoulders, though understandable, is enormous. Every fan's hopes are pinned on him. It's unfair, far too much for one man to bear (I bet Luque is more relieved at Owen's arrival than anyone - he'll be able to settle in under much less pressure.) If anyone can deliver, Owen certainly can - but we've got to allow him time to acclimatise. Miracles rarely happen, and if they do they certainly don't happen overnight.

Inevitably, Owen's arrival has completely overshadowed the departure of Jermaine Jenas to Spurs. We may have been recompensed handsomely for a player who's been playing poorly for some time and who expressed his unhappiness on Tyneside, but, like Paul, I have a nagging feeling that his best is yet to come and that Spurs could just have pulled off a masterstroke in the long term. The deal also leaves us light in midfield - a worry given the injury concerns to Dyer, Emre and Bowyer.

Many clubs will have been envious of the signing of Owen, just as many will have envied Spurs for the capture of JJ. The one transfer that has really caught my eye is that of Wilfred Bouma from PSV to Aston Villa. An excellent Dutch international central defender for just £3.5m? Might I venture to suggest that Shepherd and Souness took their eye off the ball there, or at least that they were distracted by the Owen deal? They need to remember that other areas of the team need strengthening too.

Bouma would have been a great signing - not least because we might have lined up with Boum and Boum in the centre of defence and thereby acquired a new celebrity fan in the form of Basil Brush...


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