Club focus – Newcastle United – Bridge over troubled water?

Newcastle United opened their Championship season with a well deserved draw away to West Brom. With the game televised live on the BBC and Newcastle wearing their new custard cream away strip it could have been another public humiliation for the Magpies. But to the players and caretaker manager’s credit they displayed a resilience that was often so lacking last season. Given the club’s perilous situation off the field it could have been easy for the players to go into hiding but many stood up to be counted.

Rookie goalkeeper Tim Krul made an impressive league debut, coming off the bench at half-time for the concussed Steve Harper. The young Dutchman made a succession of fine saves to deny The Baggies a crucial second goal. His only previous appearance for Newcastle came against Palermo in 2006, where Krul kept a clean sheet. New number one Steve Harper has waited over 10 years to be first choice but already his place is under serious threat, especially as he was at fault for West Brom’s opener. Another player to come out of the game with a lot of credit was stand-in-captain Alan Smith. The former Leeds player has struggled to make much of an impression at St James’ Park but impressed in midfield with some typically robust challenges. He could be a crucial player this season.

One area of real concern for Chris Hughton will be Newcastle’s defending at set-pieces. Shelton Martis’ opening goal came from a dead-ball situation and they looked ill at ease all game. With the Championship even more physical then the Premier League it will be an area that teams will look to target. Argentinean international defender Fabricio Coloccini again looked anything but a £10m+ player. Even in the Championship he looked out of depth and Newcastle should be looking to offload him quickly – even at a big financial loss. Another worry is Newcastle’s lack of pace going forward. Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll formed an all Geordie strike-partnership but they posed little threat to West Brom back-line. With the possibility of a couple of loan players coming in this week a quick striker is a must.

Local businessman Barry Moat could provide a bridge over troubled water for the Magpies. Moat has emerged as a leading contender to purchase the club and is currently is discussions with Mike Ashley and Seymour Pierce, the man charged with selling the club. Moat has an executive box at St James’ Park and is a lifelong fan of Newcastle and it is believed that he is backed by funds from America. The takeover would appeal to the fans for a number of reasons – Moat is a local boy who understands the club and he is also a personal friend of Alan Shearer. If Moat was to agree a deal it would appear to be a formality that Shearer would return to the helm.

If this deal is not successful then there is every chance that Mike Ashley will remain at Newcastle for another season at least. Reports have suggested that Ashley has set a deadline of the end of this week for a buyer to come forward with proof that they have funds to purchase the club. Ashley has just returned from a holiday in Hawaii and wants the chaos on Tyneside sorted out. If Ashley stays in control, which appears increasingly likely, his first decision is who to bring in as a permanent manager. He was keen on bringing Joe Kinnear back to the club but the former manager is still recovering from heart surgery. Kinnear even claimed last week that he had been offered a two year deal to return, whilst reports in the media suggest that former Leeds and Aston Villa manager David O’Leary is the leading contender for the job. O’Leary has been out of management for three years but could relish the challenge of managing Newcastle. The chances of Alan Shearer making a return as manager look slim if Ashley remains on Tyneside. With only three weeks of the transfer window left a decision on the club’s future must be made.

With no Carling Cup game mid-week, Newcastle return to league action at the weekend at home to Reading. Brendan Rodgers’ new-look side drew at the weekend but should provide a good test for Newcastle. Steve Harper should return in goal after concussion but Nicky Butt remains ruled out with a hand injury.

Newcastle United Club Focus

Pre-season woe – July 29

Fans say goodbye to a hero – August 5

Bridge over troubled water? – August 12

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