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Chris Knight

Newcastle owners 'not bullied' on £48m plan with clear transfer 'identity' and summer prediction

Newcastle United were still the fifth biggest spenders in the Premier League despite a more reserved January window than some expected. Dan Ashworth and Eddie Howe had both warned the club could not afford to repeat the previous spree in excess of £90 million which helped the Magpies ease to survival before providing the platform for an unlikely top-four push this term.

Long-term targets Harrison Ashby and Anthony Gordon were both eventually secured with an outlay of up to £48m. Much like with the summer capture of Sven Botman, Newcastle again proved they are prepared to wait for the right targets to become available.

In the end, it proved to be a more frantic conclusion to the window than perhaps many on Tyneside anticipated. Howe got his wish for a 'ready to play' versatile replacement for Chris Wood, but the surprise deadline-day exit for Jonjo Shelvey did not lead to the arrival of another midfielder.

READ MORE: Gary Lineker leads Newcastle plea for Nick Pope ban to be overturned after Liverpool 'anomaly'

It is shaping up to be a very special season at St James' Park, with the Carabao Cup final to come and the prospect of European football on the horizon. Newcastle's lofty position has led some to suggest further January signings were required, but Magpies legend Warren Barton insists for the third window in a row, the owners have delivered 'exactly what we needed'.

He told ChronicleLive: "We're not being bullied, it's obviously known we've got money but there's a way of doing business and they're doing it the right way. The owners weren't going to be pushed into a scenario.

"From first impressions and what we've seen in the Premier League, Gordon is going to be a very good player. He's got good people around him like Eddie, the coaching staff, and people like Trippier are going to help him and make sure that he keeps his feet on the ground.

"He's exactly what we're looking for, young players coming in. The kid from West Ham has great potential, I've seen him play enough and spoken to people at West Ham, he's one for the future.

"There's an identity and a plan for what they're doing. Eddie obviously wants his players to play with energy in a high press, and that translates with the people we're buying."

Gordon was the marquee January recruit, with Newcastle landing the former Everton forward at the second attempt. The Toffees warded off all interest in the summer, with a reported £60m package from Chelsea for the England youth international snubbed.

Circumstances since ultimately led to Everton accepting a deal worth up to £45m just five months later. The price tag has still raised questions, but Barton has no doubts Gordon could prove to be a huge success story in black-and-white under Howe.

The Fox Sports pundit said: "I think he's got the opportunity to prove to everybody that he is the talent that he believes he is. Any good young player has to have self-belief, and a bit of confidence about what they're doing.

"For a young player coming into a club which everyone in the world knows is going in the right direction, it's up to him to focus on the pitch. That's what the fans will judge him on and the players, not what he did in a struggling team.

"I think Gordon is coming into an environment that he can embrace, and push all those rumours and concerns aside. I was one of the first on Twitter to say just focus on football, don't worry about fashion and what you're doing after the game.

"If he does that at that club, they're going to love him. People are going to say things about the price tag and all these different things, all he can do is concentrate on his football and do the best he can."

Premier League experience meant Gordon ticked the transfer boxes for both the present and the long-term future. In contrast, with just seven senior appearances to his name so far, Ashby fits the profile of a signing with the coming seasons in mind.

The former West Ham prospect turned down a new deal in the capital in order to commit to the project on Tyneside. Ashby also has the perfect role model to learn from in Kieran Trippier, with Newcastle's stand-in skipper recently extending his contract until the summer of 2025.

Barton said: "He might have to be patient the kid, because Trippier doesn't look like he's getting any slower with his age! It reminds me when Aaron Hughes came in, he started getting a taste of it and playing different positions.

"When Sir Bobby felt it was the right time when I was 33 or 34, he said Warren, it's time and Aaron is ready to take over. That's going to be something for the future.

"I spoke to people at West Ham, and he's a really good player. He's got a great future, he's going to have to be patient but he's going to learn off a proper player.

"It gives you a little bit of depth in that position, and I love that they're looking at young players. That goes to the blueprint of what the club wants."

The two signings were afforded a warm St James' Park welcome ahead od the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg victory over Southampton. But as the deadline passed, there was still a sense of unease with no last-minute replacement for Shelvey being secured.

Bruno Guimaraes' three-match suspension immediately heightened these fears, although Howe has stressed his confidence in academy graduate Elliot Anderson to step in if required. Barton is relieved the club did not panic to bring in a 'stopgap' solution, and reckons the calibre of targets now going forward will likely not be availabe until the summer.

The former full-back said: "Shelvey has been a great servant, but sometimes the club outgrows people. It's a ruthless world we live in, he's done great and he's moved on.

"I think the players Eddie wants and the club want, you may have to wait until the summer. They're not going to let Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham go now, they're in the Champions League and West Ham are fighting relegation.

"He might freshen it up a little now, and it gives people a chance. For a player, if you've been patient and waiting in the wings for a while, try and take your opportunity. That's what he's generating in the squad, players hungry to do well.

"The two that I've mentioned are top-class players, and I'm sure Newcastle and a lot of other clubs will be looking. Those two really fit the identity of what Newcastle is building. Maybe there will be a stopgap going forward, but I think we've gone past that situation."

Wembley is now the immediate focus, with Howe and his side preparing for the opportunity to immortalise themselves as club legends. After that, the pursuit of qualifying for European football for the first time in a decade will sharpen the focus at St James' Park over the coming months.

However, Newcastle evidently remain at the beginning of a long-term rebuild. James Maddison is a target which could be revisited, and Barton feels signings with 'a bit of magic' need to be the priority.

He added: "They're going to strengthen, they're going to get two players that will strengthen the team we've already got. We're not the finished article, we showed against Leeds that we need depth.

"A player like Maddison to come on or you might need a holding midfielder to see a game out. I think they need to strengthen all over, no-one is a given.

"That's important if we are going to be successful, maybe players who are a little bit different with a bit of magic. Players are going to leave, there's going to be a turnover but I'm sure there will be two first-team players and maybe one or two squad players if you like.

"But if you look at Manchester City with what they've generated, is Riyad Mahrez a squad player? He'd walk straight into most teams. That's the depth which is out there now, and we've got to try and emulate that.

"Players will want to come, whether we finish fifth, sixth...there's an excitement in the world of football that Newcastle is the place to go. Everyone looks at social media, the stadium, the fans, the way Eddie and the owners talk, a lot of agents will be out there telling their clients that they want to go there."


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