The first of Steve McClaren’s Newcastle players will return for pre-season training tomorrow – with no new faces among them despite owner Mike Ashley’s pledge to revitalise the squad.
Managing director Lee Charnley has been trying to push home the club’s interest in a series of targets in recent weeks, but to date, his efforts have yielded no tangible results with the likes of QPR striker Charlie Austin, Marseille winger Florian Thauvin and Schalke defender Joel Matip remaining outside their grasp.
The Magpies are yet even to confirm the make-up of head coach McClaren’s staff, although deals with former Valencia number two Ian Cathro, ex-Derby first team coach Paul Simpson and fitness duo Alessandro Schoenmaker and Steve Black are understood to be ready to be rubber-stamped.
It is not the scenario many envisaged when Ashley stood in front of the television cameras for the first time in his eight-year tenure on the final day of last season and vowed to invest in the squad after months of discontent which prompted thousands of fans to stay away from St James’s Park.
He said: “I will continue my policy of investing in the football club. I shan’t be selling the club until we win something. Not at any price.
“When I say win something, if we get in a position of Champions League, that equals winning something.
“The only positive we’ve got is the club is on a very sound financial footing, so we are able to spend and punch above our weight with the financial situation the club finds itself in.”
However, Ashley made no bones about the fact that it would be Charnley, McClaren and chief scout Graham Carr who would have to identify the players they wanted and do the deals to land them.
He added: “My job is to make sure they have the maximum amount of financial resources and it is their job to get the best pound-for-pound value out of those resources.
“But to make it categorically clear, I’m not going anywhere until we win something.”
The lack of visible progress on the transfer front, coupled with the departures of out of contract duo Jonas Gutierrez and Ryan Taylor, has added to the frustration on Tyneside with thousands of season tickets reportedly remaining unsold after the deadline was twice revised amid promises of a concerted recruitment drive.
Work is continuing behind the scenes to land targets, but despite an apparent loosening of the purse strings and positive noises from some of the men involved, the market remains competitive as both sellers and buyers, as well as the players themselves, keep their options open.
The start of the new Premier League season is just 39 days away, but the Magpies are due to play their first pre-season friendly at Gateshead on July 10 before heading off on their United States tour, and McClaren would dearly love to have several new signings on board before crossing the Atlantic.
Whether or not that is the case remains to be seen – and the transfer window does not officially open until tomorrow and closes on September 1 – but the head coach would ideally be able to work with new players for several weeks before pitching them into the heat of Premier League battle in a bid to avoid a potentially damaging slow start.