As of Sunday morning, the January transfer period for Newcastle United was looking boring. The team had shopped James Perch as I hoped they would. They did lend out Cisco as I suspected they would. And they acquired an attacking midfielder as everyone had hoped, but it wasn't a player whose name was circulating the rumor mill (at least the first three weeks of January). It was looking like Newcastle were going to close the month with a conservative transfer period, as manager Allen Pardew needed more time to assess his weak midfield and scout new talent for next season. Newcastle's defense had improved. Joey Barton had improved. Three key players were recovering from injury. And the overall spirit if the team was mixed, but seemed to be gaining confidence with the points tally at 30.
But then Monday happened. I wonder if Newcastle supporters will name that bleak day - the day the club sold their star 22 year-old striker, their number 9, Andy Carroll to Liverpool for an unprecedented, £35 Million transfer fee (that's not counting his increasing salary). The club initially rejected Liverpool's offers. But when Carroll submitted a transfer request, the club had no choice. Carroll ("Rocky," to some supporters), is gone, scheduled to play Sunday against Chelsea at Stamford bridge, where Liverpool sent its star striker, Fernando Torres, to make room for Carroll. It's madness.
Newcastle will have to rely on its four remaining strikers and two star midfielders, who are yet to return from injury. I am counting Ranger, Best, Lovenkrands, and Ameobi as the strikers. The midfielders are Ben Arfa and Gosling.
This is a precious situation. Newcastle only need between six and nine points between now and May 14th. But what if Jose or Coloccini become injured? What if Ranger is hurt? They should earn more than nine points in the coming weeks, but funny (bad) things happen in football. The team spirit seems healthy, but it was certainly news to fans that their biggest star wasn't happy. Are there any other starters who are disgruntled?
And what of Carroll? He's extremely talented and should score many goals in his career. He should especially score more goals now that he will have better balls sent his way in the box. Liverpool simply has a better midfield overall than Newcastle (about half the teams in the Premiership do, actually).
But there are questions if experience and confidence with Carroll. He's still just 22 years old, but has only 44 Premiership caps to his name. He is not yet national team material (not as a starter, anyway). His salary has just gone up from £35,000 per week to £80,000 per week, and he is yet to produce stellar output to match the higher salary. Carroll is, of course, playing down this apparent pressure to become a legend. It is a risk for both Carroll and Liverpool. Carroll is risking his future as a star, and Liverpool is risking a lot more - an insane amount of cash they arguably didn't need to spend.