The 'realism' of the key players at Newcastle United amid wild January transfer window speculation

Newcastle United, for once, have some money to spend in the January transfer window.

By Miles Starforth
Saturday, 4th December 2021, 7:00 am
Eddie Howe applauds Newcastle United's fans at the Emirates Stadium.
Eddie Howe applauds Newcastle United's fans at the Emirates Stadium.

But fans expecting a flurry of big-name signings next month are likely to be disappointed, despite reports of an imminent spending spree.

The availability of players capable of improving the team is likely to be the biggest issue facing the relegation-threatened club, which is now 80%-owned by the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Prospective signings will, in many cases, be reluctant to move to a team battling the drop, while Newcastle, 20th in the Premier League ahead of this afternoon’s game against Burnley may find some Premier League clubs unwilling to deal with them given their unhappiness with the takeover.

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Also, teams in the bottom half of the table will also not want to sell to a club which is competing against them.

As such, much of the juicier speculation ahead of the window can be discounted. Those involved in the planning for January are more realistic about what they will be able to achieve in the window given the challenges they face.

And, for his part, head coach Eddie Howe is focused on his team as “things happen” above him ahead of an “unpredictable” window.

“January’s so difficult to predict,” said Howe. “I could sit here and give you a whole host of numbers (on how many signings), and it would be pointless, because things change on a daily basis, so all your plans and preparation can go out the window in a matter of minutes.

“Processes are happening above me to prepare for January. My immediate focus, with the number of games we have, is the team and the players we have and trying to maximise their ability.

“Everyone’s doing their jobs behind the scenes, but I’m focusing on the team at this current time.”

There’s also been speculation over the identity of the club’s new director of football amid talks with candidates for the role, though there won’t necessarily be an appointment ahead of the window.

The new ownership group’s football advisors are working through lists of potential targets, and the club will be in a position to move in January whether or not there is a technical director in place.

Howe, in the meantime, must ensure that the club, without a win so far this season, stays in touch with the clubs above it in the table. To that end, his main focus has been on the squad he inherited.

"From day one, my focus has always been on the players we have here, and I’ll try to help them, coach them to become better footballers,” said Howe, who succeeded Steve Bruce at St James’s Park last month. “So instead of looking externally, looking internally.

“I have pleaded with everybody in the media to do the same, because the only people who can get us out of the mess we’re in, are the people (already) in the building, not on the outside.

“January will come along and take care of itself, and it will be this group of players we need to give their best for the club, to get us out of the position we are in.”

That group needs some help next month, but they must first help themselves.

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