With only a couple of days left in the January transfer window, clubs in the bottom six of the Premier League will be looking for that last minute bargain and the one to make a difference as they look to maintain their top-flight status over the next three months.
For Newcastle United, it represents yet another under-funded window where manager Rafa Benitez is very much swimming against the tide. Since promotion back to the top division two seasons ago, Benitez has suffered like previous managers in not being backed by owner Mike Ashley.
Ashley, who has owned the Geordie club since 2007, is looking to sell the club as soon as he can but asking for the same amount back that he paid for the North East outfit eleven years ago is very much a sticking point given that the team are not at the profitable end of the pitch.
Still, having Benitez as manager should have encouraged him to spend and benefit the team as he stuck around after relegation to the Championship and led them back up at the first time of asking by winning the title but even this didn’t bring increased backing from the board.
For the supporters, it seems a long time since the club were competing for Premier League titles and qualifying for the Champions League on a regular basis. Last season’s mid-way finish should have been the springboard to propel the club back towards challenging for the top 6, but instead the club find themselves just two points outside the relegation zone and their only focus for the season after an FA Cup exit is survival, the Toon Army expect more.
Ashley’s attempts to sell the club have fallen through on no less than three other occasions and every time the asking price must have been too high, Ashley’s insistence of not settling for a penny less. The value of the club is low without investment although he managed to find the cash to buy House of Fraser when in Geordie eyes that cash should have been invested in their team.
Currently, the club has been up for sale for around 15 months and a deal is no closer to being agreed than in previous years. As per the usual Benitez, the Spaniard will have to use the loan market or rely on current squad numbers to keep the club from being relegated.
For most clubs in and around the bottom there is a problem in scoring goals, with just 10 between Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez. With games to come against Manchester City and Tottenham over the next week, it doesn’t become any easier.
Currently on Newcastle’s side is the fact their goal difference is better than most in the bottom six and keeping games close and tight whilst grabbing the odd goal on the counter attack has to be the best way for the Toon to pick up the points they need, forty being the normal benchmark but at the moment they’re a long way from that figure with fifteen games left to play.
Much might depend on how many of the teams around them manage to strengthen their squads and the hope Newcastle at least manage to keep their stars on Tyneside or the bleakness of January and the cold dark months could rumble on for a while yet.