The asset stripping at Newcastle – begun on a small scale last season – has continued in the pre-season. This week Habib Beye and Sebastian Bassong left the club for Aston Villa and Tottenham respectively for what is thought to be a combined £10m in initial fees.
With Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins also departing last month and James Milner, Shay Given and Charles N’Zogbia (who was a bit shit anyway) leaving last season, the current first team looks desperately small and ill-prepared for the new Championship season which begins this weekend.
With the uninspiring Chris Hughton leading the club in to 1-6 friendly defeats at Leyton Orient and an owner who can’t cut a deal to sell the club, one has to fear that Newcastle are going the same way as Leeds United.
I thought the Newcastle team was ok last season and should have really done a lot better than it did. Kevin Keegan had struggled in 2008 after taking over from Sam Allardyce but it looked like he was building something stable in the opening games of the 2008/9 system.
But now, shorn of a handful of good players, the team looks decidedly mediocre. Will Hughton be reduced to selecting players who failed last season such as Xisco, Joey Barton, Fabrizio Coloccini and Alan Smith? Even honest players like Damien Duff, Kevin Nolan and Nicky Butt failed to deliver. Can a team rely on Andy Carroll and Shola Ameobi to lead the line?
I’ve expressed my disappointment about Newcastle’s relegation before (amid all the rather mocking glee on Internet forums) but I can see how other club’s fans turn against the club. It’s farcical that this huge footballing instituion can not get its house in order.
Even signing two or three good players is not going to make any difference at this point. They had good players last season that were strangled by the general malaise around the club. It is going to be a total rebuilding job that starts with getting rid of Ashley, bringing through talented youngsters and picking up lower league talents. Just look at the roles that Fabien Delph (just joined Aston Villa) and Jermaine Beckford (signed from Wealdstone for £45,000 after 54 goals in 82 games) have played in the last few seasons for Leeds.
I think Newcastle will fail to reach the play offs this year but have the opportunity to rebuild slowly over the next 12 months. However, if they fail to heed the mistakes made by those who have gone before they will follow other former Premier League stalwarts Leeds and Charlton in to the third tier.