Newcastle United need to box smarter than ever in this summer’s transfer window – and Steve Bruce needn’t be reminded.
The Toon head coach finds himself in a unique but difficult situation for the second year in a row.
Around the same time last year, he woke up to the latest news on Sky Sports’ yellow ticker suggesting he was set to be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, no less.
He was essentially left in the dark as Ashley remained silent on the takeover stories as owners and administrators were pushed into the Richard Masters bin and stayed there for 17 weeks before the Middle East consortium does not move away.
Although, this time around he has more clarity on Mike Ashley’s exact plans for the future of the club.
In the midst of a complicated story in Benton, Ashley wants to push the club’s sale to Amanda Staveley and Co through the courtroom as soon as possible.
But with no guarantees he will win his legal fight, not to mention how long it might take, Bruce must try to build a team knowing the purse strings will be tight.
A £ 12million budget has already been hinted at by some, but Bruce’s expectations are already set after admitting: ‘I think what you’re going to see, especially during the pandemic, is that we haven’t not seen a lot of big transfers and I can’t see things changing in the summer.
“There will be a few and a privileged few who will have the money.”
Word on the soccer circuit, with agents trying to position themselves ahead of the busy window part in July, believe only the top six will spend big in the coming weeks.
Once those deals are made, a second scramble will begin as Premier League clubs decide which players will be available for loan.
This could be a crucial segment of the summer for Bruce as he looks to accept a possible loan for Joe Willock from Arsenal, but even if that doesn’t happen, there could be a conversation with Mikel Arteta over Ainsley Maitland-Niles. or William Saliba.
Bruce’s good relationship with Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp can help things with loans as well, but the reality is the Toon boss will start the season looking to improve at 12th on a potentially smaller budget than some. promoted teams.
That’s why Bruce fought to keep players like Federico Fernandez and Fabian Schar under contract.
And why – despite some criticism – players like Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle have been given the opportunity to stay.
For long stretches of last season Bruce had to quit without the services of Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin.
But these players need backup, and the alternative to extending contracts like Gayle or Carroll is to buy replacements, but it would cost money which Newcastle suggest they don’t have.
If Ashley is determined to sell the club, he’s unlikely to embark on any major transfer madness in the coming weeks.
If Ashley got what he wants, most fans would celebrate as a final Cup win, but the tough schedule also means a takeover loss could also coincide with the final two weeks of the transfer window.
By then, the best deals and loans will have been made.
Those behind the scenes will feel like they have a plan regardless of the outcome of the takeover, but for Bruce, this is arguably his most important window since taking office as boss there. two years ago.