How Joe Willock can prove Newcastle United's transfer blueprint in a summer of constraint
'Budget' and 'tight'. Not the words you want to read as the curtain comes down on another Premier League season at Newcastle United.
Yet, on the eve of the opening of the transfer window, a world of excitement for some – not so many this time around, that's the reality of the situation facing the Magpies as the costs of Covid, 15 months of them, come home to roost.
Fans may finally be back in stadia across the country but their absence has wreaked havoc with balance sheets from top of the pyramid to the bottom. The Magpies are no different, with reduced revenues boil washing and tumble drying the margins.
Ask anyone who knows me and they're unlikely to describe this writer as a 'glass half full' kind of bloke. Nor am I, however, a gloom merchant. Realism always beats defeatism or blind optimism – things are just better that way.
So with that in mind, and money being in short supply – it sounds like any transfer budget Steve Bruce hoped he'd have, assuming any takeover machinations roll on to the Autumn, will have to be raised through potential outgoings - I do actually believe this window could prove one of opportunity for a smart, savvy consumer.
And there's absolutely no reason why Newcastle United cannot use this window to their advantage.
The evidence? The January window is case in point.
Newcastle United have arguably 'boxed clever' in the last two winter windows, keeping their powder dry for the summer. Loan deals have been the order of the day. And while January 2020 was less successful - none of Nabil Bentaleb, Valentino Lazaro and Danny Rose made any significant impact - they were brought in at a relatively low cost, in what was a low risk strategy.
January 2021 has proven very different in terms of results but a similar, if scaled back, strategy.
Just the one player in last time out, but what a player he's turned out to be.
Joe Willock has scored seven goals in 13 appearances since arriving on loan to provide legs, and goals, to the United midfield. While all eyes were on Ainsley Maitland-Niles as a potential Arsenal loan man, Newcastle only had ambitions to land Willock, in the end an under-the-radar addition in the closing hours.
This was an example of clever negotiation and well-researched scouting.
Newcastle need to employ that kind of approach this summer. If you can't buy your way to improvement, squeeze every bit of value you can out of the loan market, and even the bosman list.
Neither of those two options will fill anyone with overwhelming excitement – but it is what it is, adapt and thrive, or struggle to survive.
Newcastle now more than ever need a cash-injection - and it won't come from Mike Ashley - but their hands have been tied behind their back by legal red tape.
Until that’s released, it still might be, Newcastle must make sure they're at the front of the queue when it comes to low-cost transfers, ones who complement their new found identity under Graeme Jones, not hinder it.
Their own blueprint is staring them in the face, even if the jewel in the crown may slip through their fingers and prove too rich to acquire.