Northern Boys – Part IV
Welcome back to Newcastle – a place where Saudi takeovers don’t exist, where North-East only transfer-policies thrive and where we embark on Season 2 at the helm of this fine great club following our 16th-placed finish last season. Click here to catch up on the first four episodes of this adventure if you are new or would like to get more immersed in our project and journey here.
When we last left off, the board had generously decided to give us a £35 million transfer budget for our second season at St. James Park, partly due to the funds we earned via the sales of Ryan Fraser (Getafe – £12m), Martin Dubravka (West Ham – £9m) and Joelinton (Krasnodar – £3m). Now, normally one would rub their hands with glee with said funds (bearing in mind we set the budget to zero at the start of the series), however this is no normal Football Manager save; our self-imposed transfer policy is to only sign North-East born/raised players, eventually converting Newcastle to a North-East only club after four seasons – so although money isn’t a huge issue, high profile and high quality eligible targets are. £28 million pounds later….
Although not the most prolific signing we hope to make in this series, Adam Armstrong is at the top of our North-East playing pool in terms of quality and value and it takes £28 million (50% up front) to secure his signature. At 25 he will be a core part of our Northern Boys journey going forward having racked up 14 goals in 30 games for Southampton, and of course who doesn’t like a prodigal son returning?
On the topic of targets – one of our long-term desirables whom we’ve discussed frequently on the 5 Star Potential Podcast is Newcastle-born Man Utd academy graduate Shola Shoretire (pronounced “Shore-a-tir-ay” as I am reliably informed by @FMPoacher). The bad news is that he signed a new contract with United rendering him completely out of reach permanently, however with the club keen to send him out on loan we are happy to oblige in the hope that we can at least build up a relationship with the lad which he may fondly remember later down the line..
Maybe I am enjoying the Northern Boys narrative a bit too much as the fun doesn’t stop there. Desperately in need of strengthening at the back, we sign not one but two Central Defenders – one of whom is also a prodigal son returning and both of whom have the same surname. Any guesses?
Having left the academy to join Everton back in 2017, Lewis Gibson returns on a £13m deal and on paper has plenty of ability and potential to partner fellow Northerner Dael Fry at Centre Half, while his brother-from-another-mother Ben Gibson also arrives on a cut price £750k deal from Norwich having only joined them for £8m two seasons back. That makes us now fairly stacked at Centre Half and all we need now is a Martin Dubravka replacement having sold him for £9m to West Ham (we couldn’t turn down that offer for a 34yr old who was unlikely to sign a new deal). To put one more prodigal cherry on this Northern Boys cake, Fraser Forster makes his homecoming on a £3m deal from Southampton. Our squad is finally starting to take shape as we bolster the Northern Boys ranks, and for good measure/cover we add Left-Back Leif Davis from Leeds (1.3m) and use one of our two annual non-North East loaning signings to bring in Devyne Rensch from Ajax as cover at Right-Back – I say cover but Javier Manquillo is so poor he may well earn himself a first-team spot 🔥.
We flirted with both relegation and the sack at various points last season, eventually finishing 16th which the board seemed quite happy with. With a predicted finish of 18th this time around, it’s clear the media aren’t very supportive of our transfer policy – NO ONE ASKED YOU CHIEFS.
Newcastle United Squad List 2022/2023
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster*, Mark Gillespie*, Freddie Woodman.
Defenders: Dael Fry*, Ben Gibson*, Jamal Lascelles, Lewis Gibson*, Jamal Lewis, Javier Manquillo, Leif Davis*, Devyne Rensch, Paul Dummett.
Midfielders: Jonjo Shelvey, Sean Longstaff*, Joe Willock, Isaac Hayden, Matty Longstaff*, Jacob Murphy, Allan Saint-Maximin, Shola Shoretire*, Miguel Almiron, Elliott Anderson*, Matt Ritchie.
Forwards: Callum Wilson, Adam Armstrong*, Dwight Gayle, Andy Carroll*.
It’s not a terrible side but when you consider the likes of Lautaro Martinez (Man City), Joshua Kimmich (Liverpool), Andrea Belotti (Spurs) and Paulo Dybala (Liverpool) have made their way to the Premier League by now – well, we will have to punch above our weight to build on last season’s finish. We just need to avoid relegation…
It took 2 months and 12 or so games, but finally Adam Armstrong got off the mark in a 2-1 win over Fulham – with the added problem that Callum Wilson only scored one during the same period meaning Lewis Gibson found himself our Top Scorer after 12 league games played. The partnership of Gibson and Fry at the back was looking incredibly solid, that is until we conceded 6 away to Leeds and another 6 away to Spurs – thankfully those 4 narrow wins against Brighton, Southampton, Wolves and Fulham stood to us as we entered November and the Qatar World Cup-induced winter break in 12th place in the league.
How do you solve a problem like Shola..
Shola Shoretire is a joy to watch on the field. His pace and flair make him appear to glide all over the pitch – however in terms of end product, it’s been non existent. We have been playing him mostly as Inverted Winger on the left-hand side largely due to Man Utd Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s relentless pestering to play him in his natural position – the problem is, he brings us no return in terms of goal contributions and because we need this guy to reach greatness as a vital component of Northern Boys future, we decide to switch him back to the right side as an Inside Forward in the hope he can give more in the final third cutting in on his stronger foot.
A cracking result against the league champions to ring in the New Year which you would hope gave us an excellent platform to kick on and make a name for ourselves this season, and for a brief moment it did….
We went 1-0 up on Chelsea and then everything fell apart, which continued into a 6 game losing streak that send us tumbling down the league. Everything started to go against us as we proceeded to lose all our games by the smallest of margins; VAR was a bastard and we missed chance after chance throughout. You will also notice no mention of Shola Shoretire since…HERE’S WHY 😡
After all Ole’s persistent moaning, Man Utd threw their toys out of the pram and recalled Shola at the end of January leaving us quite short-stacked in terms of attacking options. With plenty of money in the bank we decide to slightly panic and overspend on two North-East born targets whom we had always intended to add to our Northern Boys contingent.
Sunderland-born Sam Greenwood arrives from Leeds on a £5.25m deal having spent two seasons in the Arsenal academy after leaving Sunderland, and he is joined by Durham-born Joe Hugill who arrives from the Man Utd academy for a hefty £7m. Both of these players have potential to be first-team competitors and at the very least we feel a bit better after Shola’s departure.
Northern Golden Boys 🟡
We spoke a lot in my last post about regional development and our efforts to invest in local clubs as well as recruit some of their more promising Northern prospects to see if we can raise the quality of North-Eastern football production – now we can turn our attention to our own Youth Academy as we have made considerable investment and development. Last season’s intake wasn’t too bad with the likes of Josh Mellor and Taylor Taylor ticking along nicely in our U18 team, and since then we have managed to convince the board to improve our Youth Facilities and Recruitment.
March arrives and the two most coveted words in Football Manager appear..GoLdEn GeNeRaTiOn…
While not fully convinced, local boys Fred Briggs and Lee Lindley could have a bit about them if we do our development duties properly – expect a Newgen Analysis post very soon 👀
Season 2 Climax
Some costly defeats in February and March left us deep in a relegation battle as we approach the business end of the season. Having thought we turned a corner with wins over West Ham and Brighton in April as well as seeing a marked improvement in Adam Armstrong’s goal return, a red card for Ben Gibson condemned us to a 7-2 defeat at home to Leeds and with 3 games to go we find ourselves under quite a bit of pressure with West Brom, Brentford, Everton and Fulham all within 4 points of us and all battling to avoid that last relegation spot. With Liverpool and Chelsea among our remaining 3 games either side of a potential 6 pointer with West Brom – this one is going down to the wire..
An unexpected victory over Liverpool courtesy of some top notch assistant advice from @DavidNyholm live on stream (Twitch.tv/MaddFM) meant that we avoid relegation and only Timo Werner’s late winner for Chelsea stops us from finishing 14th, in the end we finish one place better than last season with plenty to build on and most importantly another £11m in prize money to add to our growing transfer budget which now stands at £52m based on our low net transfer spend in the last two seasons. The real question is – which Northern Boy will be next on our list?
In my next post we will do a more holistic overview on how our North-east development efforts are going particularly looking at our investment and regional spending via a lovely G sheet that I know all you FM nerds will enjoy – in the mean time we need to talk quickly about Affiliations as there has been some major developments. At the time of writing we now have three North-East feeder clubs following agreements with Blyth Spartans, Hartlepool and South Shields – all of whom have benefitted directly from investment and player loans this season.
What’s most interesting is the ascendency of Blyth in the Vanarama National League North – after they finished 17th in Season 1, we’ve given them approx. £250k in affiliation and transfer fees as well as loaning them 4 players, and this has seen them rapidly rise up the league and actually win the title in Season 2 (also nice to see Gateshead promoted alongside them). We will now have four of our North-East neighbours competing in the Vanarama National and this continued progression will hopefully be a fundamental part of our ambitions to elevate football across the North-East of England. Watch this space!!
Thanks for reading,
Want to get involved and/or get real-time updates or sneak previews? I’ll be posting regular updates in the MaddFM Discord server as well as on FMSlack (#MaddFM) so feel free to drop by and keep an eye out. You can also catch me most Mondays on 5* Star Potential, your weekly Football Manager podcast.