The fact that Newcastle are talking to Venables – a man who, in case you’ve forgotten, was the Assistant’s assistant and for his 30 years of experience has little to show for it – is an indication of the hard times the club has fallen upon.
All this could have been stopped if Ashley had kept Keegan onside or at least handled his departure better. Putting the club up for sale has just shoved the club deeper into a cesspool of uncertainty and confusion, and there will be several players in the Newcastle dressing room who would be looking at the club’s situation, their contracts and then thinking about January and next summer.
On the surface, Newcastle, like Tottenham below them, are too good to be relegated. But where Tottenham have quality players who are slowly settling in and money to throw at their problem (not to mention a proven manager), Newcastle have none of the above. Newcastle as an institution thrives on inspiration, and with no one touching the club with a barge-pole, players will be wondering about their futures.
Here are 5 players most likely to look to jump ship in January if things haven’t drastically changed by then:
5. Obafemi Martins
Martins was quoted in April 2007 as saying that Newcastle had the ability to challenge for a Champions League spot in 07/08. Clearly that didn’t happen, and it doesn’t look like happening this season either.
Regardless of whether he was high at the time or not, the fact that he thought this and the fact that he hasn’t gotten anywhere near to Champions League football (and doesn’t seem like getting there next season either, unless Nigerians come in swinging and bring the whole national team… now that should be interesting) for several years now, his agent will intensify his search for a new club. I hear Tottenham are looking for a striker?
4. Damien Duff
If he stays fit, Duff is a quality player who can handle the left flank and a technically sound player overall. Tottenham again come to mind although Liverpool (the city) could be an option as well.
3. Steven Taylor
He wants to play for England, and playing for Newcastle at this stage isn’t going to get him the exposure he needs to improve. There’s a good chance that he won’t make it at a bigger club, but if push comes to shove I see Taylor leaving by next summer, and if things go really bad Coloccini will leave with him.
2. Charles N’Zogbia
He’s young and like Taylor, needs a top-quality, stable environment to grow in. He’s not going to find that in Newcastle and there is little to suggest that he would be willing to ‘stick it out’ at Newcastle if things keep going south. No shortage of suitors from mid-table Premier League rivals for a young talented winger either.
1. Michael Owen
The only reason he didn’t leave in the summer was because no one was willing to pay his wages while he was unfit AND pay a transfer fee. Owen wants to play at the top level; he hasn’t had that chance now for several years and no amount of ‘loyalty’ to Newcastle will change that – he’s out the first chance he gets, and at his wages, it won’t be a moment too soon.
Of course, a few of these players may stick around if the takeover happens but realistically speaking Owen is out no matter what happens and like Milner leaving this summer, Taylor and N’Zogbia could be the next disillusioned set of youngsters to leave St James Park.
Who do you think will leave Newcastle?