It would have been phenomenal had Newcastle ended their 2010/11 campaign with a victory over West Brom back on May 22nd. They would have finished the season with 48 points, in ninth place, ahead of arch rival Sunderland. West Brom could have used a victory as well, as it would have placed them in the top half of the table at the end of the campaign. But both sides were denied victory thanks to an explosive start by the Magpies, followed by a second half of miscues, bad timing, poor communication, and some bad luck. Actually, it was poor defending by the Baggies (including an own goal), followed by terrible defending by the Magpies. Throw in some final Toon appearances (Alan Smith and possibly Leon Best), and it was a messy, disappointing game.
A disappointing end to the match, and the season, perhaps, but hopefully a timely reminder to all concerned that we're a side in need of investment over the summer if we're to kick on next year.
And invest they have. Alan Pardew is yet to prove himself as a master of game strategy. But he is proving himself to be a wise spender. In the first four weeks of the transfer window, Newcastle have acquired two French midfielders in their prime (Yohan Cabaye and Slyvain Marveaux), and a proven striker (Bemba Ba). The club hope to sign an Egyptian midfielder (Sheikabala), and a star Turkish striker (Mevlüt Erdinç, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain) in July. The club could also make a bid for Adel Taarabt, a Moroccan-born midfielder who is currently with Queens Park Rangers.
Meanwhile, Newcastle were forced to sell Kevin Nolan to West Ham, once the team captain was irreversibly offended by the first contract renewal offer he received. The organization have told veteran midfielder Alan Smith to find employment elsewhere (the latest rumor is that he will sign with Leeds). And the team have told reserve striker/prospect Nile Ranger that he can pack his bags as well. His failure to grow on or off the pitch gave the club no other choice.
The durable midfielder Joey Barton, upset over Kevin Nolan's departure, seems to be entertaining offers from Hamburg and Arsenal. If Newcastle were to lose Barton, and pick up Taarabt or Sheikabala, they would have a a faster, formidable midfield, featuring some French speaking players as well as guys with Arab names (let the Glenn Beck Islamic Caliphate outage begin). The Mags would have Jonas Gutierrez, Cheick Tiote, Hatem ben Arfa, and Sylvain Marveaux, with possibly Sheikabala, Taarabt, Cabaye, Peter Løvenkrands, and Dan Gosling available off the bench. Even if they lose Gutierrez, they would still have awesome depth at midfield. Remember, just a year ago, the cash-strapped club's addition to the midfield was the lanky James Perch, who is still with the team as a reservist. I can't declare anything until we see results, but this promises to be the best Newcastle midfield since I first became a fan in 1993.
With the acquisition of Demba Ba, Løvenkrands can go back to being a backup midfielder. Shola Ameobi becomes a backup striker if the club acquires a star striker. And in the backfield, it is still unclear if key defender José Enrique will stay or go. But if he goes, there would still be a budget to purchase a replacement. Meanwhile Steven Taylor continues his comeback as a starting Center Back. Ryan Taylor, Mike Williamson, Tamás Kádár, Danny Simpson, and Fabricio Coloccini round out the other available defenders.
That leaves Pardew with the question of what to do about his goalkeeper. Right now, he's content to let Tim Krul, Steve Harper, and Fraser Forster fight for the starting spot, while several clubs submit their bids for Forster, one of the best goalkeeping prospects in the Premier League today.
More answers and possibly more signings will be revealed as the Toon prepare for a three match tour of the USA in July, their first visit in 16 years.