Five years after promotion from the Championship, Newcastle United are finally adding to their pool of centre-backs for the new season.
That’s the angle that many fans have identified anyway. While a considerable amount of money was expended on the since-departed Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, the £8.5 million acquisition of Chancel Mbemba and his eerily similar name has got tongues wagging. Jamaal Lascelles is on board now too.
Since their return to the Premier League, the Magpies have challenged for a Champions League spot, reached a Europa League quarter-final, and twice required late interventions to stave off relegation fears. The form of their back-line has fluctuated accordingly.
Fabricio Coloccini has earned a reputation as one of United’s greatest ever defenders, taken the captain’s armband, been compared to Bobby Moore, and repeatedly tried to engineer a move away from St James’ Park.
For Steven Taylor, fitness concerns have never been far from the picture. There’s been an England call-up – but no cap – while foolish suspensions have interrupted when injuries haven’t.
Though both men might have been dumped by a more ruthless organisation than Newcastle, they have their supporters. Few on Tyneside would consider standing up for Mike Williamson though – brought in halfway through that holiday in the second tier.
His method may have been unconventional and ultimately ineffective, but an attempt to exile Williamson was John Carver’s best move as United manager.
No more than steady at his best, the former Portsmouth centre-back’s lack of composure on the ball simply won’t fit with the passing game Steve McClaren hopes to implement in NE1. Of course reinforcements were necessary, but it’s no exaggeration to say that some fans would celebrate Williamson’s departure with the same vigour.
It appears as though Newcastle are struggling to find a suitor for the 31-year-old, but at least a replacement has – almost – been secured in Mbemba.
Strong in the air, quick across the ground and good on the ball, though the DR Congo international sounds ideal in theory, so too did Yanga-Mbiwa. He would surely benefit from being given time to settle into his surroundings before the campaign gets underway, but it doesn’t look as though he will be granted that opportunity.
Only the FA can explain why it will take them eight days to get back to United on a work permit for Mbemba in the middle of the transfer market – a situation that is frustrating with the big kick-off less than two weeks away.
Presumably the application will be successful – if not, the Magpies are in trouble – but the delay will be worthwhile if this fixes a long-standing problem.