The dust created by the SLAMMING SHUT of the transfer window has largely settled and Newcastle United have largely followed through on repeated promises by Steve McClaren that their transfer business was completed well before the deadline. Neither is there discussion to be had about the quality of the players brought in nor is there any doubt that the summer activity represents a significant departure from the well-established bargain basement style of Mike Ashley in previous years. Whether having the transfers wrapped up "well before the transfer deadline" equates to "in sufficient time to give Steve McClaren a chance to integrate new signings and establish his style and tactics well enough to have a chance in early season matches" is a discussion for a different day. Assessing the club's activity in the window is hard without a body of work from the new signings to work from, but hey... this is the internet! Let's do it anyway!
It seems that for every Newcastle United fan the transfer window is built first and foremost upon a staggering fear that an important player is about to be sold. It isn't always evident which player it will be (though frequently it is) but we know that at least one player is going to test the resolve of the ownership as "bigger clubs" move in for him. In what is becoming an increasingly common window occurrence, however, it really never felt like any first choice player was destined to leave. Instead of stories about an imminent departure from the first team, we created our own fun stories and PR nightmares.
The first round of departures were not surprises in any form. We knew, for instance, that if the club were to move forward there would be popular players who would not be retained. We didn't know, however, just how that would be accomplished. "Here Ryan, thanks for everything and would you mind to pass the phone to Jonas?" And so it was that in the most Newcastle way ever, the transfer clock was off and running.
FREE TRANSFERS OUT
Ryan Taylor, Jonas Gutierrez: Both players were popular figures at the club, both in the changing room and within the fan base. Both had done the hard work (to the best of their abilities based on injuries and so forth) and exhibited an actual love for the club's fans. Everyone knew it was time to move on, however... club, players and fans alike. We just would have liked for there to be a little more dignity in the way it was handled. Regardless, there wasn't a way forward for either player at the club and these moves were not surprising.
Jak Alnwick, Adam Campbell: Jak Alnwick somehow grasped the short straw with regards to his first team debut as Tim Krul and Rob Elliot both ended up with injuries that saw the young GK come on at halftime of the Chelsea match (and perform pretty well, actually) and then through the holiday fixtures. As time wore on, it was pretty evident that Alnwick was not ready for the PL stage and as his contract was coming to an end, the handwriting was on the wall with the likes of Freddie Woodman behind him and Karl Darlow due to join the club in the summer. Ultimately, his situation was not what you'd hope for if you're a young player trying to break through, but it ended up the way it was always likely to do.
Adam Campbell was a disappointing one. He never really lived up to the reputation that he had gained in the Academy. He was loaned out several times but could never really break through on those moves either – even being returned 3 weeks early by Carlisle United – but in spite of that was finally given a couple of chances in the first team by Alan Pardew. My lasting memory of Campbell will be from a match against Chelsea in which the ball was in Newcastle's possession in the middle of the pitch some 35 yards from Chelsea's goal. The play would ultimately flow to the right wing, but before that decision had to be made, you could see Campbell clear as day on the left wing in acres of space. He was waving his hands wildly and practically jumping up and down to try to get someone... anyone to notice. No from either team did and that was pretty much that.
Remie Streete: Streete was another player coming from the Academy for whom the club held high hopes. He was never able to realize those hopes to suit the club and ended up moving on for a free to Port Vale in League 1. At this point, we're so used to Academy players flushing out once they hit senior age that it's hard to even register another one.
Mehdi Abeid: Abeid was an interesting case. He had his fans within the Toon Army while never managing to impress the coaching staff quite enough to earn extended time in the first team. A loan to Panathinaikos went a significant way towards rehabilitating his reputation only for him to come back and do as much sitting as playing (although he was out for a significant amount of time through injury) only mustering 13 total appearances in a make-or-break year. He was given an extended look in the preseason tour of America but did not do enough to convince Steve McClaren that he should be part of Newcastle's future. It was hard to see him breaking through a crowded central midfield situation and was ultimately sold for £1.5m to Panathinaikos. He goes with good wishes and a thought of what might have been.
Reported Fee: £1.5m
Olivier Kemen: When Kemen was brought in, he was supposed to be the Next Great Thing. As a youngster, he already had the body to be a strong physical presence on the ball and had technical gifts to boot. Unfortunately, none of that promise developed into enough to convince any of Alan Pardew, John Carver or Steve McClaren that he was ready for the first team while the player himself was more than happy to talk about his displeasure at those decisions. Somewhat surprisingly, several big-time European Brand Name Clubs registered an interest in Kemen. Nearly all fell by the wayside for some reason or another (I suppose the lazy narrative is that he didn't impress upon a deeper scouting?) and he ended up heading back to France for what surely can't have been much more than a modest profit if any at all.
Reported Fee: £700-750k
Newcastle United navigated an important transfer window very well. Although some of the moves out (Ryan Taylor specifically) has left us with some depth issues to a degree – it looks like we can absorb a lack of depth at RB even if it further exposes some degree of lack of depth at CB to do so – largely all of the players were fringe players or ones who had no more future with the club. At the very least, they were not players who were going to bring an overall lift in talent based on the fact that no first team pieces left.
DEPARTURES GRADE: A-
The club gets graded down for the failure on Olivier Kemen and the way they handled Ryan Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez, which is admittedly petty, but it is what it is.
This is part 1 of a three part look at Newcastle United's performance in the transfer window. Part two will be coming your way soon!