Today the club did summer in a day. Everything we wanted from this summer, all done in 24 hours:
Sign players in positions we were weak in
Get rid of players who were money grabbing mercenaries
Have players who love the club, committing to the club and taking the club forwards
See the club move to a better, happier place to be
The signing of Charlie Wyke has, of course, dragged on for most of the summer but finally crossed the line today. We have needed a physical front man for years, arguably Quinny being the last player entirely happy to back in to the defender and flick it on for the on rushing Phillips (can Maja play the Phillips role?).
Like Quinn, Wyke’s meant to have a good touch for a big man and will chip in with his share of goals. Unfortunately, like Quinn, we’re not entirely sure how he passed his medical. His pre-season knee injury means he won’t play for a few weeks but, with rumours of a second striker joining soon, perhaps there won’t be a mad rush to get him fit.
So why did it take so long? Well it clearly wasn’t the knee and rumours are the money we’ve paid didn’t go up anywhere near as high as is being suggested on TV. The clue could be in Eoin Doyle signing for Bradford this afternoon. A direct replacement for Wyke, it seems this could have been the hold up.
And as the new number 9 signed, the number 23 was heading out of the door, presumably taking his irritating hash tags and ‘team’ with him. Twice in recent memory we’ve had transfer windows where we learned it wasn’t a mystical science and, actually, it was possible to sign people. The first was Keane’s first few days and the second was Big Sam with his extraordinary signing of Kirchoff, Khazri and Kone.
Lamine Kone was a rock that half season and, as first impressions count, we could see he was committed, passionate and the strength we needed. Sadly, we went on to learn that he was all of those things when it worked for Team Kone. If his pay packet wasn’t right, if it was a wet Tuesday night in February, he became anonymous, accident prone and weak in tackles. The failure of the club from Sam leaving to last May has been mirrored in his form and desire to be involved.
Breaking up isn’t that hard to do with a guy who, despite premier league talent was happy to spend his summer jogging around the Academy waiting for a phone call. The worry with a loan is the money and, it seems TC and Hilly have done another excellent deal with Strasbourg picking up the wages and, with a bargain buy out clause, it seems unlikely Kone will return to the North East ever again and his snood can be retired permanently.
Let’s instead talk about players who want to stay. Want to play. Want to give everything for a club that is moving in the right direction. We want people who ‘get it’. People who understand what the North East is about, what the fans have been doing all week and why they pour their desperation and heartache into more of the same on a Saturday afternoon. Players who might never be the most talented but, after 90 minutes, had given everything to the cause.
In a way, the transition to young, local, passionate lads leading the team, taking over from the overpaid, over the hill premier league players was started when O’Shea handed the arm band to Bali Mumba. But he wasn’t (yet) a long-term prospect for captain.
Step in Prudhoe’s own, George Honeyman.
It seems fitting in a summer when we’ve looked at how far Academy players can go to see George take the arm band. His potential matches the clubs and I can’t see why he can’t lead us for some years to come. A midfielder who, at only 23, could easily end up playing for a solid, safe, well run Premier League club. And there’s no reason it can’t be us.
I look forward to seeing a picture of him on the wall of the tunnel lifting some silverware in the near future.
And finally, positivity. It might sound daft but, people seem happy. People are looking forward to a match day. Not like we have for ten years, that happiness that comes from thinking we might get a point. Actual, wondering who the scorers might be, cheering the new manager, imagining joining in with ‘Sweeeeeeeeet Luke O’Nien ba ba baaaaaa’, proper happy. And it seems to be rubbing off in the club.
The tweet to announce Honeyman was genuinely funny, the confusion earlier in the week over whether one of the media team was in fact Charlie Wyke resolved with a selfie tweeted earlier, it’s like the positivity is working it’s way through the club step by step.
Is the Stadium of Light going to be a positive place to be this season? The site of Unknown Pleasures? Who knows. But the signs are good based just on today.