SOMETHING had to give at Newcastle United. And it did last season.
After two transfer windows without a permanent signing, weaknesses in the club’s squad was exposed over the past few months.
And it wasn’t pretty.
Alan Shearer wore the black and white shirt with distinction for a decade.
Nowadays, the club’s all-time record scorer watches football for a living as a Match of the Day pundit.
But Newcastle didn’t make good viewing in the second half of a once-promising campaign.
They weren’t box office. And supporters were left punch drunk.
Shearer was as frustrated as any United fan. And the 43-year-old, like every supporter, is just hoping owner Mike Ashley sanctions the kind of investment he feels is needed for the club to move forward.
United banked more than £77m in Premier League revenues from last season, and supporters want to see a significant chunk of that windfall spent on players over the coming months.
“I think everyone knows that they need to buy players,” Shearer said.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean they will get them. But there have been two transfer windows without a permanent signing, and it can’t be three.
“The fans, over the last four or five months, have had nothing to shout about.
“I think it’s been so disappointing. It’s been a really difficult second half of the season for everyone – the manager (Alan Pardew), the players and the fans.
“The fans are the ones who need to be entertained, and they haven’t been for the last four or five months.
“That’s why they’re so disappointed.”
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew – who has borne the brunt of fans’ anger in recent weeks – is keen for a thorough overhaul of the squad.
There will be a number of departures – the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux and Gabriel Obertan will be allowed to leave – but just how many arrivals will there be before the end of August?
Pardew has been involved in discussions with Ashley and United’s newly-appointed managing director Lee Charnley over the club’s summer transfer strategy.
There are many questions – and only Ashley, as ever, knows the answers.
“There are huge decisions to be made in terms of the playing staff,” added Shearer, who had a brief spell as United manager under Ashley late in the club’s relegation season five years ago.
“I’m not party to what is going to be done. Only one guy can answer that, and that’s the owner.
“But I’m sure he’s aware players need to be brought in. Only he can tell you how much will be spent – no one knows.
“We all know what should be done, but we don’t know whether it will.”
United need to place Yohan Cabaye – whose £20m January sale to Paris Saint-Germain coincided with the start of the club’s Premier League decline last season – and loanee Loic Remy, who won’t be joining Newcastle on a permanent basis.
Without Remy’s 14 goals, United would have been battling relegation.
And goalscorers of Remy’s calibre don’t come cheap.
After all, Shearer himself cost £15m when the club signed him from Blackburn Rovers – and that was in 1997.
“Loic Remy’s missed almost a third of the season, and without him we couldn’t score,” said Shearer, who brought 206 goals to Newcastle before injury forced him to hang up his boots. “That was blatantly obvious.
“With him in the team, we could, certainly in the early part of the season. We don’t know what his plans are, but it would be a surprise if he was to stay.
“I think he’s got his eyes set on moving somewhere, where it is I don’t know.”
Gosforth-born Shearer, of course, didn’t have his eyes on a move elsewhere after joining Newcastle for a then-world record fee.
And the former England international was warmly welcomed fans when he appeared at a recent sold-out dinner staged at Hedworth Hall, South Shields, which was organised by Wraith Promotions and Precision Sports.
“It was great to get out and see so many people,” said Shearer, who was given a standing ovation by supporters.
“I had a great reception. I’m from the area, but it never ceases to amaze me how nice the people are.
“It’s not like that everywhere you go, but it is in the North East.”
l FRANK Clark, John Beresford, Steve Howey, Darren Peacock, Irving Natrass, Olivier Bernard, David Craig, Steve Howey and Peter Jackson are among the former Newcastle United players appearing at “The Black and White Reunion – The Defenders” at the Lancastrian Suite, Dunston, on Sunday. Tickets, priced from £20, are available from wraithpromotions.com.