Newcastle wisely skip stage one of the Man City blueprint

Dave Tickner
Reported Newcastle target Kieran Trippier during a warm-up

Kieran Trippier joins Newcastle as a low-risk improvement to their squad with no long-term implications. It is Manchester City in January 2009.


Newcastle have skipped straight to step two of the Manchester City lottery winner’s playbook for world domination – and that is extremely good news for the club.

When Manchester City found themselves in possession of unimaginable wealth on actual deadline day in September 2008, they got quite understandably overexcited and signed the shiniest thing they could lay their hands on at short notice, which turned out to be Robinho. He wasn’t quite as bad as people now remember, but he didn’t do much to make City better either.

By mid-December, a run of six defeats in nine saw them drop briefly into the relegation zone. While they started to turn that around before the January transfer window, and their situation was never remotely as bleak as Newcastle’s is this season (at the 18-game mark, for reference, that City side were operating at a point-per-game level that this season would make relegation a dim and distant prospect), their winter business certainly helped.

And the thing about said January transfer activity is this: it was entirely – even boringly – pragmatically sensible. They signed Nigel De Jong, Wayne Bridge, Craig Bellamy and Shay Given. All good players, all improved the starting XI, but none in their wildest dreams could ever be described as a Galactico.

Bolstered by this phalanx of sensibleness, City ended up comfortably in mid-table and we all know what’s happened in the 13 years since.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe

Newcastle’s need for that approach now is far greater than City’s ever was then, and while the early days of the new St James’ Park regime were pretty shambolic, there are more and more signs that good decisions are being made. You still don’t have to agree with how it’s all come to be – in fact you absolutely shouldn’t agree with it – but those nascent hopes that Newcastle might just be run stupidly enough for even this City-dwarfing level of wealth to be inadequate look a touch less likely now.

Eddie Howe was a Very Sensible Manager to appoint, Newcastle – unlike plenty of rival fans – apparently able to judge the former Bournemouth boss on the years he kept them in the top flight rather than the one in which he didn’t, and now Kieran Trippier is a wildly sensible first signing, even if he does appear to be determined to bring back the glory days for the long-suffering fans of KAYAK FC.

This photo has properly baffled us, by the way. Why does it exist at all, for one thing, and more importantly why is this the one that Newcastle chose to use for the announcement? Where did he point for all the other ones? Truly, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Inaccurate badge-pointing worries aside, though, Trippier – and Aaron Ramsey would fall into precisely the same category should he complete a touted move from Juventus – sits right in that De Jong-Bridge-Bellamy sweetspot as an early signing for the nouveau riche. He instantly and undeniably improves the current starting XI, is unlikely to take significant time to bed in and makes relegation a far less likely prospect.

But like those City arrivals in January 2009, Trippier and Ramsey are designed for just the right timespan as well: instant short-term impact, but not players who then quickly become a millstone to be dealt with when the money really starts to flow in six months’ time. Ideal for now, good enough for later is the perfect policy for Newcastle right now. Trippier is a perfect example of it.

The fee has been anywhere between £12m and £25m; a dispassionate analysis would say the former would be pretty reasonable for a 32-year-old with Trippier’s pedigree, and the latter a significant overspend. But with Newcastle now, the actual response to any figure is just pure patridgeshrug.gif: it literally doesn’t matter, does it? Relegation is unthinkable and resources pretty much limitless. Newcastle aren’t going to spend enough in this window to fall foul of FFP even if they wanted to, so crack on.

The most important thing for Newcastle from the moment the takeover was confirmed was to hit January still at least in contact with 17th place. That this is the case owes more to the collective failings at Burnley, Norwich and Watford than to anything Newcastle have done, but they are now seemingly taking all the right steps to capitalise on that good fortune.

Another couple of signings in the Trippier mould like Ramsey and Sven Botman and not worrying too much about your Coutinhos and your Martials should see Newcastle survive with plenty to spare. Then they can knock themselves out and find their own Adebayors and Tevezes and other such pluralised legends in the summer once a calm and sober and singular January has done its job.