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Rumor Roundup: Newcastle ‘Focused’ on a Number of Left Backs this January

Newcastle have stepped up their pursuit of 3 left backs as the winter window’s close draws near. Gloster, Willems, and Williams all are intriguing, but do any of them make sense as targets?

Newcastle United v Rochdale AFC - FA Cup Third Round: Replay
Would be all smiles if Jetro came home!
Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Newcastle United waited 22 days into the January Window to begin making some moves, and they began by beginning to key in on a new left-back to bolster the squad.

It was thought that Newcastle’s woes at left-back, which resulted in bringing in Danny Rose on loan last January to become the starting left-back, were solved when they signed promising left-back Jamaal Lewis from Norwich last summer. Lewis, however, has been less than impressive thus far. He has struggled defensively, and without a proper offensive system, has also been mediocre as an attacker. Looking back on it, signing one of the worst defensive players on a Norwich defense that was not good should not have excited fans as much as it did.

Even if Lewis was world-class, Newcastle don’t really have depth at the position. Paul Dummett should not be playing left-back anymore and has looked his best in recent years as a 3rd center back. Javi Manquillo is a decent option to play on the left, but until recently was the starter at the right-back position. Matt Ritchie, well, let’s just say he is not the best defender at the left-back spot.

Newcastle have clued in on three potential options at the left-back spot as the window comes to a close, and in all likelihood, Newcastle could find themselves in the mix for at least one of the three by the close of the window.

Jetro Willems

Jetro is a familiar name to Newcastle fans, as he was one of the bright spots of Steve Bruce’s first season in charge. After being linked to Newcastle for years, the left-back finally joined Newcastle on loan last season. After a shaky debut that saw him confused as to what position he should be playing, he fit in well at Newcastle as the first choice left-back until he tore his ACL against Chelsea on January 19th of 2020. It’s no surprise that he is once again linked to returning to Newcastle.

Jetro was and continues to be a fan favorite of many Newcastle fans due to his flair, work rate, and actual end product. As a left-back who played half a season at Newcastle Jetro was able to chip in with 2 quality goals and 3 assists. Willems also still has a wonderful relationship with the fans on social media and is frequently in the comments of Allan Saint-Maximin’s Instagram posts or tweeting about when he is watching Newcastle.

Newcastle United v Manchester City - Premier League
Jetro provide some outstanding goals for Newcastle in his short time at the club including this one against Manchester City
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Jetro has made it no secret that he would love to return to Newcastle. His run of 20 games at Newcastle was certainly one of his best stretches of football since he was in serious contention to be a regular for the Dutch National team. He clearly is friends with a lot of the players still, particularly Allan Saint-Maximin, and is a fan of Steve Bruce’s “laid back” approach to managing.

The questions regarding the move are fairly straightforward. For starters, Willems is coming off of an ACL injury and hasn’t made an appearance for Frankfurt this year. Willems is fully fit, and in training, but has not been named to the team sheet yet. There is no telling how Willems is going to return to full match play after an ACL tear. Newcastle has seen Florian Lejuene return from an ACL tear with issues in the past, but on the flip side Lejeune has excelled in La Liga despite coming off another major injury. His exclusion from the team could be because Willems rejected an extension with Frankfurt in December with the aim of returning to Newcastle. The contract situation slightly complicates this move as well because Jetro only has 6 months remaining on his current deal. Newcastle would love to pay nothing for Jetro, but I would imagine Frankfurt is looking for some sort of compensation for the player whether it be a loan fee or at a minimum covering his wages. It is unlikely Frankfurt is going to terminate Jetro’s contract early so that he can waltz his way over to Newcastle.

Nonetheless, this is the most likely transfer to occur for Newcastle. You have interest from Newcastle, the player wants to join the club, and Frankfurt would love to offload a player who they are paying to do just train at the moment. The only major issues would be if Willems somehow fails a medical, or if Newcastle is waiting for more player sales before adding another player.

Brandon Williams

Brandon Williams is an interesting link for Newcastle because it came seemingly out of nowhere. Williams is one of the most promising members of Manchester United’s academy and can play as a right-back or left-back. Williams just signed a new contract with Manchester United, and Newcastle is among a host of clubs interested in bringing the player in on loan per Keith Downie of Sky Sports.

Williams will have his pick as to where he wants to go on loan if he ends up going on loan, but it will likely be wherever he feels he can get the most playing time. Newcastle is going to be an option for him to consider due to the fact that Jamal Lewis is not a lock for the starting 11 each week. On the flip side, when choosing a destination for a young player to go on loan the team loaning the player out as well as the player take into consideration the manager who will be responsible for developing the player. Steve Bruce is a charming figure in the eyes of players he is trying to recruit, but his track record developing players speaks for itself. He is not good at developing talent and that is evidenced in the act that so many Newcastle players have regressed under Bruce. That, and Newcastle’s place in the table could sway Williams to look elsewhere but all in all, it does not matter that much to Williams as his long-term future is certainly with Manchester United.

Manchester United v Watford - FA Cup Third Round
Williams is promising, but only has 8 senior team appearances for the Reds
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

For Newcastle Williams would be an interesting signing but likely would not fix Newcastle’s issues at the position unless he turns out to be a world-class left-back that was buried in Manchester United’s academy. What Lewis needs the most is someone who can mentor him as well as challenge him for that left-back role. A lot of the frustrations with Lewis come from his lack of experience in the Premier League. He makes a lot of simple defensive errors that require him to do some learning from more experienced players. I am not sure if bringing in Williams, a younger, less experienced player, would do much to help continue to develop Jamal Lewis.

I doubt this move happens, as it uses up one of Newcastle’s crucial domestic loan slots on a player that still needs to develop. However, if another left-back is brought in and Newcastle sell a fullback like DeAndre Yedlin there is potential this move could happen. Plus Steve Bruce is unpredictable and obsessed with British talent, so even if this move makes zero since Steve Bruce could still pull it off.

Chris Gloster

The latest left back linked to Newcastle is Chris Gloster, an American currently playing at PSV. This move is particularly puzzling as Gloster is not a player that would improve Newcastle immediately. The 20-year-old currently plays for PSV’s U21 team, where he has made only one start in his 6 appearances for the PSV reserves.

The American is a promising player, but like Brandon Williams, the move doesn’t make sense for Newcastle right now. Newcastle is in a relegation battle, and relegation battles are not the time to try and develop players. It is likely, however, that this is another attempt from Newcastle to bolster their academy. Gloster is only 20 and is one of the most promising Americans in the youth ranks of their national team system. He has been a mainstay for the U.S. youth national teams at both U17 and U20 levels. He started every match for the U20 side that reached the quarterfinals at the 2019 U20 World Cup.

There is a slim chance he could make a first-team appearance, but more likely than not this would be an academy signing. This raises a couple of issues, the first being that there is no motivation for Gloster to leave one of the best academies in the world for one of the worst academies in the world. Under Ashley, the Newcastle academy has become an absolute joke and gets bailed out any time a player makes an appearance for the first team. There is nothing great about the academy or being a youth prospect at Newcastle. The facilities are less than ideal, the youth teams are not good, the manager is hesitant to give young players opportunities to play in cup matches, and Shola Ameobi is turning out to be one of the worst loan managers in the Premier League. Shola has had to recall prospects from clubs he loaned them out to every single window since he has been given control over Newcastle’s loanees.

PSV U23 v FC Eindhoven - Dutch Keuken Kampioen Divisie
Gloster has played in 6 matches in the second tier of the Dutch league thus far after making 16 appearances in the league last year
Photo by Photo Prestige/Soccrates/Getty Images

The second issue revolves around obtaining a U.K. work visa. Work visas are becoming harder and harder to come by since the introduction of new policies regarding Brexit. In the case of Gloster, he is in the same situation as Rodrigo Vilca, the youth signing Newcastle brought in during the summer window. Gloster plays for the reserves of a team not in the top 5 European leagues and his only international experience has been at the youth levels. Logically, if Vilca was able to obtain a work visa, then Gloster should not have an issue if he is being brought in as a youth signing. The issue is that work permit rules have changed due to Brexit, and it makes it harder for players to move to the UK unless they are getting consistent minutes for the national team or a team in the top 5 leagues.

This move seems like a bit of a stretch, but there is still an outside chance it happens. It requires a lot to go right for Newcastle including simply having Gloster being open to moving away from a really good academy, and a lot of help making sure he is eligible for a transfer. If this signing does happen and Gloster is sent to the academy, you have to begin to question whether Newcastle’s strategy of signing players to bolster the academy even makes sense. A fee for Gloster would be around the £200k mark, and at that point, it probably makes more sense to invest that £200k directly into the academy. Especially considering there is no guarantee of return on this initial investment because Newcastle’s academy is so bad.

One Newcastle fan had a clear message for Gloster once it was reported Newcastle was interested in the player:

In other news, Hamza Choudhury is another name Bruce has looked at as a loan signing to bolster Newcastle’s midfield according to Keith Downie of Sky Sports. Downie also mentioned Newcastle are considering strikers this window to solve Newcastle’s goalscoring issue.