A Closer Look At The Squad
At the end of last season TOTT looked at an action plan for the summer. With a week to go before the Premier League kick off, we review the close season progress.
The first item on the agenda was to identify who was to be retained, and who to be allowed to leave the club. No surprises there! Nicky Butt and the occasional performer, Pancrate have gone, along with loanee Fitz Hall and 9 youngsters, some of them previously much heralded.
A number of areas were identified for strengthening. Key to these were defensive cover, particularly on the flanks. More cover was sought in the wide midfield positions, with some added experience up front as well as potentially a defensive midfielder as well as some creativity in the middle.
In the meantime, it was envisaged that contracts with a year to run should be extended, as well as potentially some other players who could expect to earn more as a result of their performances.
Those who left were unsurprising on the whole, the possible exceptions being Danqah, Baheng and Godsmark. Andy Carroll and Tim Krul have signed extended contracts with no news over prolonging Hughton`s future at the club. Steve Taylor`s contract negotiations run as they did last time, with some sabre rattling through the media, but a shoulder injury meaning that he will play little part before Christmas.
So far, 3 signings have been made. Perch provides cover across the back line, most notably at right back, but also with the potential to play in the heart of defence as well as in the holding role. Dan Gosling is a box to box midfielder for the future, capable of providing wide cover, but like Steve Taylor, not for several months to come. Campbell has arrived as a defensive colossus.
The situation is clouded this season by new regulations specifying a restriction on the number of players aged over 21, restricting overseas players to a maximum of 17. To reach a maximum (over 21) squad size of 25, 8 "home grown" players must be included. The definition of "home grown" is aged over 21 with 3 years spent in domestic football.
As can be seen from the list at the end of this article, the Toon are well placed for home grown players. There is still scope to add four more players aged over 21. Those could be either from England or Wales or even overseas.
The rpoblems remain, as shown up in the pre-season games so far, that there is little cover for Routledge or Jonas, despite a promising showing from Xisco on the left. Although Guthrie and Ryan Taylor are capable of playing on the right side of midfield, neither totally provide aggressive width in the same way as an out and out winger.
Central midfield would seem to be over populated. Smith is the obvious defensive option, with Nolan, Guthrie, Barton and even Vuckic all competing to start. Meanwhile, up front we see a number of strikers who should be moderately competitive against lower mid table opposition; Carroll, Lovenkrands, Ameobi, Best, Xisco and Ranger.
The now infamous club statement from the end of last season suggests that the club will not break even for a few years yet. In that context, it is worth taking a look at the current financial situation.
The wage bill has been reduced to around £40million. Back in the Premier League, revenue can be expected to be in excess of £100 million, especially with the newly negotiated overseas TV deal.
The club has stated that Ashley does not seek to have his loans repaid for the foreseeable future. The cash situation appears to be healthy. Parachute payments have been received. A look at season ticket availability suggests that season ticket revenue is at the high end of expectations. The cash kitty available should be in the region of £20million, even allowing for hefty signing on fees for Perch, Campbell and Gosling, certainly in excess of £15million.
Hints have emerged from the club that to ensure survival the models of Wolves and Birmingham from lat season provide an example, Even those two clubs spent around £15million last summer.
Loan signings have yet to materialise, Tom Cleverley already on his way to Wigan, but with some other possibilities from the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, and perhaps even overseas.
Hope for a late flurry of activity comes from Premier League competitors who are overpopulated under the new rules. Manchester City have overseas players to spare. There are plenty of clubs around Europe in financial difficulties, without the same level of revenue that Sky funnels into the Premier League. Player availaibility should not be an issue.
So far there has been little activity from the aftermath of the World Cup. Several players from smaller countries who overperformed, in the South African shop window have yet to move. The cream of Africa, Switzerland, Japan Korea and even New Zealand has so far been overlooked.
The next few weeks will provide more insight into the current regime at NUFC. There is cash to spend. Looking at the tough fixtures at the end of the season, an impact has to be made early. Will Ashley invest, or did his representatives speak with forked tongues when talking about breaking even in 5 years?
The next few weeks should certainly be interesting.
Coloccini, Enrique, Lovenkrands, Jonas, Xisco (total 5)
Harper, Nolan, Campbell, Williamson, Barton, Guthrie, Carroll, Routledge, Simpson, Perch, Ryan Taylor, Smith, Best Forster, Krul, Shola Ameobi, Steve Taylor (Total 16)
Under 21 (includes)
Gosling, Kadar, Vuckic, Ranger, Ferguson, Donaldson, Adjei, Airey, Folan, Henderson, Inman, Soderberg, Tavernier, Tozer, Edmundson, Zamblera, Lua Lua