Right - so we're 3 days into the off season and we still have our squad intact (at least so far as we know). Don't fear though, Toon Fans, August 31 is a long long long way away and there is plenty of time for the repeating cycle that is Newcastle Fandom to repeat itself. In today's links, Demba Ba makes comments sure to warm the souls of the eternal optimists, Alan Smith scores in the League 1 play-offs then gets attacked, and Alan Pardew readjusts my expectations for the summer and we determine that we will never ever know what happened at the end of the Everton match.
Demba has been linked now with no fewer than 7 clubs that are not Newcastle United - the Sky 6 + PSG. I'm certainly not holding my breath that he stays, but I'm not running around scared that he'll leave, either. What I am certain of is that any resolution to the situation is going to draw out forever. Allegedly, the club have been trying to renegotiate Demba's contract to close the Redknapp Loophole™... so we wait. We either will hear that Demba has a new contract or that he's been sold. No middle ground here. But! Here is something to cling to if you're an optimist:
Demba Ba says he can't wait to get back on the pitch for Newcastle again next season. He tweeted: "What a great season we had. I'll miss sjp and the atmosphere for few weeks. Cant wait to step back on the pitch and feel the noise again..."
"My reaction at the end of the game was out of character but I was disgusted at comments made to me by Cabaye. "I don't wish to elaborate on the exact detail of what was said – but his words have no place either on or off the football pitch. "Cabaye has apologised via his club's website and as far as I am concerned the matter is now closed."
And that's that. Maybe if Yohan or Cahill write a memoir, they'll cover this... otherwise, we'll never know what exactly happened at the end of the 2011-12 Premier League season. I'm going with a grassy knoll-type conspiracy.
Ex-Leeds and Manchester United striker Smith was roundly booed by the Yorkshire hordes when he was introduced in the 81st minute. And as home supporters poured onto the turf to celebrate their club reaching Wembley, some fans confronted the 31-year-old. The first punch was thrown by a Town fan, and Smith immediately reacted as further blows were exchanged before MK Dons manager Karl Robinson, along with a police officer and a couple of stewards, intervened.
There's really no room for this from supporters. I know it's a couple bad apples kind of deal, but come on. Also, on an unrelated note, Alan Smith was coming into the Leeds United side when I was first really getting into the Premier League full stop, so I can never really believe that he's only 31.
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"Finishing fifth was beyond the expectations of the club and fans," said Cabaye, quoted in the Newcastle Chronicle. "What makes us strong is that at no time a player has felt bigger than the team. We all worked for our team-mates."
It may be that no player felt bigger than the team, but it became clear that the squad was not immune to the troubles of playing time concern, particularly in the central midfield.
"Regardless of losing anybody, which is a possibility, I still think we’ll bring in two or three players," Pardew told the Gazette. "We’ll certainly do that for the underbelly of the team which needs to strengthen. "Steve Nickson has come in and will help us in the department. "Other than that the formula will stay the same. "It’ll be myself, Graham (Carr), Derek (Llambias) and Lee (Charnley). "We’ll more or less come to a conclusion between the budget, the money, the talent and the accessibility of the player."
Predictably, the anticipated recruitment number has dropped with our confirmation of Europa League competition as opposed to Champions League qualification. As we've established before, there is relatively very little money in the Europa League, and the lack of the guaranteed £10m for CL group stage qualification probably accounts for the change. 3 players is not very many, especially when one of them is widely accepted to be Romain Amalfitano in the central midfield. It seems that, despite success, we're still going to have more holes than we're going to bring in players.
United’s transfer operations these days could not be more thorough and just like a move for Erik Pieters of PSV Eindhoven fell through last summer due to agent fees, Pardew’s board will not be taken for a ride. This was also the case last August when the Magpies were quoted an initial price of around £13m for striker Papiss Cisse. They walked away at the time, before returning in January when the price was slashed to the region of £9.5m.
The formula is built on sound business practice, which is great. I've weighed in as thankful that the club are solvent and getting on firmer financial footing every season. What I hope I will someday see from Mike Ashley is the ability to make one move that may be a tiny step back (filling a hole when he may not want to) in order to push the club many steps forward. I am not sure that we'll ever see that, though.
"You never know in football. It is not just at this club, it is in football in general where all kinds of different things can happen. You never know when a player can go - we had that the other January with Andy Carroll. "You never know, but I think the club did great things this year with their signings and I have confidence they will do great things again. It is a good position for us to be in."
Jonas is confident that the ownership will do right by the club, which means something to me. However, I still will have lingering concerns about this ownership for reasons that I have well established over this season. Let me just put a scenario out there and you can make up your own mind:
Newcastle United are unable to come to new terms with Demba Ba and are thus unable to prevent his departure on the Redknapp Loophole™ while Leon Best is sold on as well. Reports suggest that the total income from these moves would be in the neighborhood of £9.5m (in addition to any war chest that may already be in existence). Danny Simpson does not agree a new contract and is sold on. Danny Guthrie leaves on a free and Dan Gosling moves on as well.
Romain Amalfitano (#1), whichever CB fits into the formula (Douglas, Yanga-Mbiwa, Vertonghen, etc.) (#2) and Debuchy or Pieters (#3) are brought in. This assumes that we hit on the long end of Alan Pardew's projections which has not yet occurred.
The acquisition of Debuchy/Pieters is a zero sum transfer so far as squad depth with the departure of Simpson while the acquisition of the CB is about time (#AllTransfersAWindowTooLate). Amalfitano fits into a central midfield that may or may not be void of Cheik Tiote by this time but still is going to see Yohan Cabaye, Haris Vuckic and Mehdi Abeid available, clearing up a bit of the logjam that existed this year for playing time in the center of the park. We are left with Papiss Cisse, Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands as proven strikers with Hatem Ben Arfa and and Sylvain Marveaux being relied upon heavily on the attacking end. It sure looks to me that, particularly with Europe on the cards, there's a hole for a striker that isn't going to be filled.*
*I understand that we've got young players like Sammy Ameobi in the wings that could conceivably slot in as a striker, but I would argue that we've seen this year the value of a player that's primary concern and instinct is to just score goals. "Could do" is not the same as "will do"