This was originally posted to the Daily Mirror in an attempt to take part in a fan opinion piece on what Newcastle should do this summer. They decided not to use it though, so rather than never have it see the light of day, here it is:
THE THREE KEY AREAS FOR MY CLUB TO IMPROVE IN ARE…
Communication. The club hierarchy have cut themselves off. In the AshleyBunker deep beneath Barrack Rd they feel justified by past burnt fingers. But things won’t improve until they start talking and demonstrably tell the truth.
Fan engagement. Sell a few shares to the Supporters Trust, allowing fans into the AGM. The huge increase in goodwill might offset the inconvenience of answering to people with no direct financial stake.
Transfer Policy. Previous financial and circumstantial justifications for repeated transfer window profits no longer apply. Another would finally confirm the intention of generating income to the exclusion of footballing considerations.
WHO WE NEED TO SACK AND/OR SELL THIS SUMMER
Derek Llambias has presided as MD over a period of publicly exposed lies and his wildly conflicting irregular pronouncements seem designed solely to antagonise. His reputation is irretrievable. We’d all feel like we’d hit the jackpot if he quietly returned to the casino business.
For all Alan Smith’s grit, effort and dressing-room influence, he is out of his depth in midfield in terms of his passing, positioning and discipline. Peter Lovenkrands also doesn’t lack for effort but is unable to influence games. James Perch looks a disaster waiting to happen until the disaster stops waiting. All must go.
WHO WE NEED TO BUY/HIRE THIS SUMMER
Strikers are top of our list this summer. I’d look at Odemwingie and Sturridge who both may be available at the right price. Better judges than I recommend Gameiro and Gervinho from the French league, so any two arriving from those four would be more than satisfactory. In midfield I like James McCarthy of Wigan who is strong, retains the ball well and young enough to improve. Niko Kranjcar would improve our wide midfield if Adam Johnson can’t be persuaded to return home. Chris Samba and Kyle Walker fall within our price range and would strengthen our defensive ranks.
HOW I’D IMPROVE THE MANAGER/COACHING STAFF
Youth and unidentified quality are the targets under a recruitment strategy which aims to identify both talent and good value. Graham Carr has been very impressive as Chief Scout and I’d let him choose someone to assist in his search, allowing us to reach ever more remote football backwaters.
Aside from signing a blood pledge never to buy Carlton Cole, Pardew’s biggest possible improvement would be to stand up to the owner when necessary. Unfortunately, though his first season has been broadly successful, his status doesn’t yet permit the issuing of ultimata, and maybe it never will.
HOW I’D IMPROVE OUR DEFENCE
Newcastle aren’t a tall side and struggle under aerial attack. Coloccini, while providing fluid passing and composure, isn’t imposing physically. A commanding stopper to play with or even replace him against selected opponents would help. A full back comfortable on either flank is needed to cover injuries even assuming Enrique doesn’t leave. Probably two needed then, as that seems a certainty. Accomplished though Enrique is in both attacking and defensive duties, he’s never managed to reduce lapses in concentration which mar his play. A good price and a decent replacement wouldn’t be the disaster most seem to think.
HOW I’D IMPROVE OUR MIDFIELD
We’ve needed a right midfielder for some time. Jonas’ final ball improves immensely from that side so I’d play him there, leaving a fit again Ben Arfa on the left or off a lone striker. Squad reinforcement should be right-sided in that case, giving two options on each side. Our poor mobility in the centre allows good sides to pass around us. Changing this means replacing Nolan however, and any replacement would need not only to be more mobile but to contribute a fair portion of Nolan’s goals, as well as addressing the current dearth of creative passing.
HOW I’D IMPROVE OUR ATTACK
Fresh blood is essential. The underrated Shola Ameobi is an excellent 3rd choice and Leon Best has proved himself good enough to fill out the squad. Lovenkrands isn’t good enough and Ranger doesn’t show any signs of developing enough to merit a place. Two players are needed to go straight into the team. Our attacking has been predictably direct at times, so if some variation in style can be provided by the new recruits then all the better. Pace, trickery, movement and finishing are what we’re looking for, along with every other club in the world.