After months of protests at St James’ Park, Mike Ashley gave his first public interview to Sky Sports promising big changes and stating that he was going to remain until the club won a trophy. Newcastle fans were getting frustrated at the club neglecting cup competitions and that view has changed, at least publicly with Steve McClaren and various other club figures stating their desire to end the club’s trophy drought. However the club are just one of two Premier League teams not to add a new signing to their squad along with Crystal Palace and the skepticism is building once again on Tyneside.
The squad returned to pre-season training on Wednesday with no new faces in the training ground when it comes to the playing staff and that will be a concern for some of the players. In the past, Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy both left due to the club showing little ambition. Both Moussa Sissoko and Tim Krul may make a similar decision this summer if significant transfer business isn’t completed, which will be a huge concern with both players being crucial to Newcastle’s hopes of pushing on this campaign.
Steve McClaren is new to the club and the optimism created by his appointment could be lost if progress isn’t made in the transfer window. The supporters will be optimistic that he and the new look coaching staff can get a lot more out of the current squad, with several players underperforming in the 2014/15 campaign under both Alan Pardew and John Carver. This season the pre-season has been very different, and he has tried to ease the concerns of supporters by sending out an email stating the club are working hard behind the scenes to attract the right sort of players to the club. However, the supporters will be doubtful until real progress is made, as words have been cheap at the club in the past.
He is in a unique position as he is the only Premier League head coach or manager who is also on the board. That gives him the opportunity to affect the direction of the club, which he may have done in reversing the cup policy, but his ability to complain about recruitment is limited as he is also a board member.
The club have in the past adhered strictly to their transfer policy of buying cheap foreign players under 26, but that needs to change due to the higher finances available to all Premier League clubs. It is rumoured that the club have somewhere between £25-60m to spend, but they need to become more flexible, especially when it comes to transfer fees. Their priority target, Charlie Austin, has a price tag of £15m on his head, which would make him the largest signing of the Mike Ashley era. It would be a real statement, but there are huge doubts about whether the club are willing to put that much money on the table for him.
The atmosphere on Tyneside is still skeptical towards the club and Mike Ashley. Steve McClaren wasn’t the most popular appointment, but the fans are warming towards him after some of his comments about the club and where he wants to take it. Nevertheless the new regime may lose its momentum before its really begun if significant transfer business isn’t done in the next month. It’s crucial that they get a new face in before the squad leave for their USA tour.