As the door slams shut on the January transfer window Newcastle manager Chris Hughton should feel pleased with the business he has done.
A total of five players have joined the Magpies since the turn of the year in either permanent or loan deals. At the start of the window strengthening the defence with reinforcements and bringing in another striker were high on the list of priorities and Hughton has managed to meet that criteria. In defence QPR’s Fitz Hall and Chelsea’s Patrick van Aanholt both signed on loan deals on Friday to swell the defensive ranks even further. Hall seems a slightly strange loan signing as Newcastle already have four central defenders on their books although Hall is experienced at Championship level. van Aanholt will cover for the injured Jose Enrique who could be out for several weeks with a hamstring injury. The Chelsea youngster made an impressive debut against Leicester City and looks to be a similar player to Enrique in the way that he bombs forward down the left flank. The final day of the transfer window saw the Magpies snap up striker Leon Best from Coventry City. The Republic of Ireland international has scored nine goals in 25 appearances in the league so far this season. He should provide more competition up front but would appear no better than the likes of Carroll, Ameobi and Lovenkrands. With Wayne Routledge also added in January the squad has been strengthened in most positions.
One concern for Newcastle fans will be how many of these new players would make the grade if they achieve an instant return to the Premier League. Out of the permanent additions only Wayne Routledge has played top flight football and he has had an indifferent time of it. Williamson, despite looking solid at Championship level, never made an appearance for a poor Portsmouth side. Most of the signings would appear to have been made with a short term mindset of getting Newcastle out of the Championship as soon as possible. At least the three permanent signings are in their early – mid 20s so still have time to improve their game. The only outgoing departure has seen midfielder Geremi complete his move to Turkish side Ankaragucu. The transfer has been touted since the start of January but only went through on deadline day. It will be a relief to get the high earner off their already sky-high wage bill.
The weekend was a bit of a mixed bag for Newcastle with the disappointment of two points dropped against Leicester City balanced by closest challengers Nottingham Forest suffering a surprise defeat. With West Brom the big winners they have closed down the gap to the top two to just a few points. Although Leicester City played with only 10 men for most of the game there was little difference between the two teams. Indeed if Leicester had their full allocation on the pitch all game Newcastle may have suffered a rare defeat. Against a determined Foxes outfit they created few chances and were generally careless in possession of the ball. Newcastle’s last two displays against Leicester and Crystal Palace have been disappointing yet still their unbeaten league run continues. One particular cause for concern has been the form of midfielder Kevin Nolan who has looked off the pace of late. He has been in terrific form for most of the season, leading Newcastle’s scoring charts with 10 league goals. But since Boxing Day the goals have dried up and he has contributed little else to the team since then. A rest may be needed but Newcastle have few other attacking central midfielders at their disposal.
Manager Chris Hughton was not happy with his side’s performance against Leicester City and cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines. Despite his nice guy demeanour his players were on the end of a rollicking after the full-time whistle. New defender Mike Williamson revealed: “The manager had a few choice words after the game. He wasn’t happy with us at all. The players were very disappointed but we just take the positives and move on to the next game. I know Chris comes over as very calm and collected but he has a switch on him. He is a very, very good manager tactically and one-to-one with players. I enjoy playing under him and I think he will help my game. I think he’s got all the attributes to be a good manager.” Hughton has had few reasons to be angry with his team for much of the season. But it is good to see he is not intimidated by some of Newcastle’s big name players.