SIXTY-FOUR teams are still in the FA Cup at its third round stage.
Trust Newcastle United to quickly reduce that number to 63 after their dismal and deserved exit on Saturday lunchtime at old nemesis Brighton.
Sorry for sounding like a beleaguered club official, but the Magpies’ defeat may not be a bad thing in the current circumstances.
You may not like the circumstances – take your pick from injuries, suspensions, loss of form, general inability, poor tactics and a miserly transfer policy – yet they have all contributed to Newcastle’s perilous league position.
A position that needs improving long before any deluded dreams of Wembley glory take hold.
The £5.5m purchase of Lille full back Mathieu Debuchy is a start with the French international offering far more of an attacking threat down the right than the honest if limited Danny Simpson.
But with Simpson likely to leave before his contract runs out in the summer and striker Demba Ba already off to Chelsea then more incomings are desperately needed before the transfer window shuts on January 31.
While Toon thoughts seem to be trained on Marseilles’ injury-hit and far from prolific Loic Remy, I would be tempted to look a little closer to home for once and gamble on Burnley striker Charlie Austin.
If he doesn’t live up to his reputed £8m fee in the Premier League – and admittedly former colleague Jay Rodriguez hasn’t since moving to Southampton for £7m – then at least Newcastle should be guaranteed goals if they do end up back in the Championship after a four-year sabbatical.
A quick word on Ba’s departure.
As I see it Newcastle took advantage of a contract clause to sign a top striker for free just six months after he had joined West Ham for around £6m.
So no-one should complain too much that United have been caught out in similar fashion 18 months later.
A mercenary? I would not go that far.
More another example of a modern-day footballer who did not proclaim to love the club in the first place and wanted a better job with more pay.
Who can blame him for that?
– GAVIN LEDWITH