Newcastle are a club that controls its destiny: new owners, an expected new manager, and the company’s signed and activated credit card.
It is clear that a few players will be bought in January, but there is a signing Newcastle must succeed if they are to survive in the top flight and avoid delaying regeneration.
To determine this position, just look at the scoresheets this season: two goals against Wolves, one against Watford, one against Leeds, four against Manchester United, two against Southampton, two against Aston Villa, four against West Ham. The only clean sheet came against Burnley in the League Cup.
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At no point did Newcastle’s back line look comfortable, with Steve Bruce trying various combinations from Frederico Fernandez, Ciaran Clark, Isaac Hayden, Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schar and Emil Krafth. None of the combinations convinced.
Obviously, no signing will save Newcastle from relegation, that’s not how football works, it’s a piece-by-piece process. However, the most important decision the club face is to find a center-back who will be the first name on the squad sheet week after week, who will command Newcastle’s defense and who will be a game against the best forwards in the division.
The plan for this already exists in Newcastle. In February 1992, Newcastle were in the relegation zone facing a fall to third tier and possible bankruptcy. A new owner, John Hall, had taken over. He had brought in a new manager, Kevin Keegan. He brought in a far from glamorous Oldham Athletic center-back: Brian Kilcline.
Keegan later said in Martin Hardy’s book, Touching Distance, “He came in among the players. He helped straighten the club. He was brilliant. He doesn’t believe the world owes his life to him. He was the most important signing I have ever made for the club.
During the remainder of the season, Kilcline, who became captain, led the defense. The Chronicle player notes told the story: Against Barnsley, Kilcline made an “exceptional debut”; against Portsmouth he “never wavered”; against Leicester he was “magnificent”; against Swindon he “fought”; against Grimsby, he “gave nothing”.
Newcastle have remained on their feet this season. The following season, Kilcline lost his place on the team, being edged out by Kevin Scott and Steve Howey, but his influence remained.
Howey said of Kilcline at the time: “Some older players might have been upset when a kid comes in and takes their place, especially if he’s a captain.
“But there was none of that from Brian Kilcline. No sour grapes at all. He was the first to pass on some little advice and it was greatly appreciated.
Kilcline had done his job of helping Newcastle survive. His contribution has been to improve results and, as captain, to instill a winning mentality in his teammates. He lost his place but allowed the team to become what they have become: title contenders.
Newcastle don’t need a second tier center-back this time around, they need one that will compete with the best forwards in the world, but they need one that will affect players alike. way Kilcline affected them, and who won’t. flinch or give anything.
The club have an uphill battle ahead of them this season. They need to reverse the results and fight their way out of the relegation zone. Any hope for rapid transformation depends on this survival. They need a leader and a central defender who refuses to be beaten.
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