Newcastle United may be old hat in the Premier League but that alone will not ensure their survival, despite such a convincing season in the Championship. Of their three signings so far, free agents Sol Campbell and 20-year-old Dan Gosling will be crucial members of Chris Hughton’s squad. With Premier League experience in abundance, Campbell is still a failsafe at the heart any defence and is a natural born leader. Gosling’s contract cements his future at St. James’s Park for four years and, despite his tender years, has already notched 22 appearances in the Premier League with his former club Everton. An England Under-21 international, Gosling is certainly a name for the future and a player that Everton will regret to have let slip through their fingers. Both players do come with baggage. According to some disgruntled Newcastle fans, Campbell has returned from his Honeymoon overweight, whilst injury will sideline Gosling until the New Year.
Departing from Lazio under the Bosman Ruling, West Ham’s new recruit Thomas Hitzlsperger is a massive signing for the Hammers. 51 caps for Germany is no easy task and Avram Grant will look to the 28-year-old’s experience to help reinvigorate a side that struggled last season, and only narrowly miss out on relegation. The German has wasted no time in opening his account in the colours of claret and blue during pre-season, scoring the only goal of the game in West Ham’s 1-0 victory over Panathinaikos in July. Although he missed out on a place in Joachim Low’s World Cup squad, he will be vital for West Ham this season.
Beside the clubs that will benefit from their free agents they have secured thus far, there are also those teams that will suffer from their losses. Everton new boy Jermaine Beckford has already scored twice for the Toffees in pre-season, while his former club Leeds United deal with major headaches in the forward position while his replacement Billy Paynter recovers from injury. Leeds had an outstanding last season, with winning promotion into the Championship and an impressive run to the fourth round of the FA Cup – but both relied heavily on the goals scored by Beckford and without him spearheading the attack, we will see a very different Leeds.
And so to make use of the well used expression, ‘the best things in life are free,’ maybe this summer’s free transfers will play a more important role for their respective sides than those that cost the earth to employ.