Will Rafa Benitez '“ and Newcastle's fans '“ get a belated Christmas present?
It's that time of year again.
Shops are telling us how many “sleeps” there are to Christmas – 48 as of today – and there’s no escaping it now.
But how many sleeps to a takeover?
That, we don’t know.
What is clear is that Rafa Benitez needs money to spend in January.
The transfer window opens at the turn of the year, and we’re still waiting for news of a firm bid for Newcastle United, which was formally put up for sale last week.
Owner Mike Ashley wants a sale done by the New Year, but that looks optimistic.
Prospective buyers, including a wealthy consortium led by Amanda Staveley, have been going through the club’s books over the past few weeks.
Those books, despite the financial hit the club took last season in the Championship, will look good.
And that’s the thing.
Ashley didn’t want to spend in the summer as he was planning to sell United.
However, that saving has come at a cost.
Newcastle were beaten 1-0 for the second time in six days on Saturday.
An injury-time header from Steve Cook claimed all three points from Bournemouth, who had spent most of the first half on the back foot.
Benitez made a telling comment in the press room at St James’s Park after the game, which had followed a loss to Burnley at Turf Moor.
“I was worried from the first of September,” said United’s manager. “What I did is to work harder, and that’s what I’ll do now.
“We are where we are. I said before, now is another proof we have to keep working hard and keep compact together or we will have problems in these kind of games.”
Benitez might have been “worried”, but he got on with his job. And United, 11th in the league, have been competitive this season.
They’ve been disciplined and organised, though two mistakes cost them last week.
They’ve just lacked quality in key areas and at key times. And we saw that again against Bournemouth.
Quality costs money, and Benitez had to take gambles on players – like £5million striker Joselu – in the summer while rivals were spending tens of millions of pounds.
There isn’t much wrong with Newcastle that two or three signings couldn’t fix.
Benitez and his draw are already drawing up lists of potential targets.
A striker is needed, but signing the right one at the right price won’t be easy in January, when it’s a seller’s market filled with desperate – and cash-rich –clubs.
Before then, United have to get through December, which is a tough, tough month.
Newcastle, right now, are five points above the relegation zone. But that cushion might not be so comfortable in a few weeks time.
Will fans be sleeping so easy come Christmas time?