Although Jesse Lingard is undoubtedly the loan signing of the season, Joe Willock is making a late bid to be considered the runner-up. After scoring another late goal for Newcastle at the weekend, the Magpies are almost over the line in terms of Premier League safety.
The Arsenal loanee has scored four league goals during his short stint on Tyneside and it is his last three which have been incredibly important, as they’ve been worth several invaluable points to the Magpies. Five to be precise, as goals against Tottenham and Liverpool secured somewhat unlikely draws for Steve Bruce’s men and of course, one cannot forget his late winner against West Ham at St James’ Park either.
This one-man crusade to keep Newcastle in the top tier of English football has done Steve Bruce a huge favour in terms of his employment and, considering the former Manchester United defender is hesitant to start Willock, he may soon have to reward him with more minutes.
Perhaps it is even more likely once Newcastle are mathematically safe from demotion to the EFL Championship and, once that be the case, the focus will turn to what happens to the club over the course of the summer.
For supporters for the club, there is a sense that Groundhog Day is upon them. Although receiving another invite to the Premier League party is something to celebrate, it likely means the managerial status quo remains.
It’s a conundrum for those who have demanded “Bruce Out” in recent times and with the 60-year-old masterminding another bid for safety, there is little reason for him to be given his marching orders.
That will certainly be the viewpoint of owner Mike Ashley, at least, whose business model is based on survival and not a great deal else. He will be delighted with the efforts of Joe Willock and Newcastle’s subsequent movement up the table.
No relegation, no change of manager. That is the simple edict as far as Ashley is concerned and with no change of manager, it is unlikely that there will be a considerable amount of investment in the club either.
The more things change on the River Tyne, the more things stay the same and it is this refusal to change that drives Newcastle supporters to the point of genuine and understandable frustration.
However, there could be a plot twist in all of this and one that comes via Saudi Arabia and with talks of another bid from the countries investment fund (PIF) being mooted, change could be on the horizon after all.
If the legal wrangling that is connected to PIF’s failed takeover bid can be unravelled over the course of the summer, it may finally allow Mike Ashley the opportunity to sell the club for a fee of approximately £300m.
With the takeover talk revived, it puts the current Newcastle owner in something of a halfway house. If he does have an eye on the exit door, he will be unwilling to sign off on a raft of spending during the transfer window. Which means those who worship the black and white stripes will hope a sale that is not dragged out and the longer any talks continue between all number of parties, the less time there is to spend those Saudi riches.
Of course, it is not all about which players do or don’t arrive in the next couple of the months, it is more about who takes charge of them and if a new ownership setup is installed, this may mean bad news for Steve Bruce.
When the first round of takeover gossip appeared last year, many felt that the former Hull manager was simply counting down the days before he was relived of his duties and although he has been granted another 12 months through failures elsewhere, that time may finally expire.
Then again, his continued employment really does hinge on who is the chairman by August and if the sale of the club is once again bogged down due to a combination of Premier League and supposed government influence, then Mike Ashley will still find himself as owner.
Another scenario that can be considered bad news for the Newcastle fanbase and although they will be delighted with another round of Premier League action next season, it may come at a cost. That cost being somewhere in the region of £300m.
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