In the immediate aftermath of Newcastleâ€™s Â£300 million takeover in October 2021, the Magpies were linked with just about every competent player on the planetÂ and a fair few stragglers as well. The expectation was, with money in the bank, that cash would be thrown around like confetti.
St Jamesâ€™ Park was supposedly the place to be, with North East natives quick to tell anybody that would listen how they were destined to knock Manchester City from the loftiest of Premier League perches and become Champions League winners in a matter of years.
There is nothing wrong with dreaming big, but expectations should be reined in a little when puntersÂ betting on football are met, in most outright markets, with 5/4 odds of Newcastle being relegated out of the English top-flight. So, while ambitions for European success may be high, at the present moment, the club are barely inÂ contention to capture a domestic crown.
As it stands, Newcastle are in serious danger of slipping through a trapdoor that has opened up below them on two occasions in the last 13 years. For them, life in the Championship, rather than the Champions League, would be nothing new.
An incredible end to the season!
Champions of the @SkyBetChamp… @NUFC!
â€” EFL (@EFL) May 7, 2017
Surely, though, with the deepest pockets in world football to dip into, survival will be secured with the minimum of fuss, wonâ€™t it? Well, bold statements regarding future intentions are not as prevalent as they once were. The ultimate destination remains the same, but a scenic route may be required in order to get there. A winter transfer window that promised so much delivered on only a fraction of its considerable promise.
Change of plan
Prior to the turn of another calendar year and the opening of a January market, those with a penchant for black and white stripes were talking up raids on Barcelona and Bayern Munich. The likes of Ousmane Dembele and Niklas Sule were supposedly destined to head through the doors.
In reality, what Newcastle got were deals with Burnley and Brighton. Where a World Cup-winning forward and Germany international centre-half were intended to stand, now sits Chris Wood and Dan Burn.
Now, there is a lot to be said for shopping close to home and acquiring Premier League experience when locked in a basement battle. It also has to be noted that Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes are no mugs and can be placed in a coup category.
Goodnight. ðŸ–¤ðŸ¤ pic.twitter.com/38pdoDl81O
â€” Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) February 1, 2022
Promises are notoriously difficult to deliver on when it comes to recruitment matters, with there no magic wand to be waved that delivers top targets to any given squad without any resistance being shown from selling clubs or players themselves.
The Magpies are finding that out the hard way, with the likes of Jesse Lingard, Donny van de Beek, Dean Henderson, Gareth Bale, Philippe Coutinho, Sven Botman, Anthony Martial, Diego Carlos, Eden Hazard and Divock Origi either opting to stay put or heading elsewhere. Aaron Ramsey was a really galling one as he ended up bypassing Tyneside en route to Glasgow and a loan spell at Rangers.
With so many â€˜what ifsâ€™ being mulled over at Newcastle, how far down an alphabetical plan list did they ultimately go? Did they raid Aston Villa for a left-back just to be able to say they landed one Targett â€“ of the Matt variety â€“ or was there acceptance all along that Plans B, C and D would ultimately deliver more realistic rewards?