The unheralded Rafa Benitez deal which underlines the wisdom of Newcastle United's £25m Chris Wood signing
It’s not so much about the future at Newcastle United right now, despite the long-term ambitions of the club’s ambitious new owners. It’s about the here and now.
And, right now, the club needs a striker. Not any striker, but a striker who has Premier League experience – and is good to go now. That striker today joined the club.
The deal which saw Newcastle pay £25million for Burnley’s Chris Wood has been questioned by some outside the North East, but the deal makes perfect sense to most fans on Tyneside.
Yes, the fee looks steep for a 30-year-old, but the cost of relegation is far, far greater.
Eddie Howe – who last week welcomed the arrival of right-back Kieran Trippier from Atletic Madrid – expects to be without Callum Wilson until March, and Wood has an important role between now and his return.
The way the signing is being questioned by some supporters reminds me of the deal which saw Daryl Murphy arrive on Tyneside in the summer of 2016.
Murphy was in his early 30s at the time, and was signed as back-up for Dwight Gayle.
The deal was mocked and questioned by some, but, again, it made perfect sense to many on Tyneside. It turned out to be an astute move, as Murphy scored five goals from 15 Championship appearances as the club won the division. He was there when the club needed him.
Murphy moved on the following summer, having done the job he had been brought in to do.
“I always knew I had been brought in there to do a specific job, to help the club get promoted,” said Murphy before his exit. “I had no illusions that I was going to be starting for Newcastle in the Premier League if we got up.”
Wood has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the club, and he should have some more longevity at United, whatever happens this season.
The New Zealand international – who scored for Leeds United against Newcastle at St James’s Park during that Championship campaign – will back himself to establish himself as a key player at the club.
The future of 32-year-old Gayle, still at the club, is less clear, as the striker hasn’t started games this season even when Wilson has been unavailable. Gayle – who signed a new three-year deal at the club last summer – has only played 28 minutes of top-flight football, and will be a target for second-tier teams.
Back to Wood, who should thrive on the amount of crosses Trippier, Allan Saint-Maximin and Ryan Fraser and are able to put into the box.
Wood has a decent goal record in the Premier League, having hit double figures in his first four seasons at Burnley.
This season has been more of a struggle, but the team, as a whole, has struggled, hence its position in the Premier League.
Burnley are level on points with 19th-placed United, and the signing significantly weakens a rival.
The club has £25million to spend on a striker, but finding a capable and experienced one prepared to join a relegation-threatened club won’t be easy. That’s now Burnley’s problem, and United must now push through the rest of their transfer business.
It's so far, so good for Newcastle in a challenging market.