Those who think Newcastle United will simply stroll back into the Premier League have not paid much attention to the Championship recently.
Fortunately for the club Rafael Benítez does not appear to be among their number.
Newcastle are not messing around as they look to build a squad for the rigours of the second tier. Premier League talent has been persuaded north by the prospect of working under Benítez and a not unhealthy stack of cash: Matt Ritchie has arrived from Bournemouth and Dwight Gayle from Crystal Palace, and the Belgian goalkeeper Matz Sels has also joined.
Possibly the most eye-catching arrival is Jesús Gámez, a full-back who can play on either flank and whose purchase was greeted with approving nods from Spanish observers. Others could follow Andros Townsend and Fabricio Coloccini out of the door but Benítez seems to be building a formidable squad to face this new challenge.
Also building sensibly after the gut-punch of relegation are Aston Villa. Tommy Elphick’s move from Bournemouth looks the perfect move to solidify their defence, and the goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini supposedly ignored interest from Juventus to join. Norwich have been a little more sluggish in the market but have replaced Southampton-bound Nathan Redmond with the Liverpool youngster Sergi Canós, booking a profit of around £8m in the process.
Last summer’s big Championship spenders Derby County have so far kept their powder dry, their attention seemingly on keeping players such as Jeff Hendrick (subject of a laughable £3m offer from Burnley) and Will Hughes rather than adding players. That may be sensible, because their squad are easily good enough for promotion and, now they have a proper manager in Nigel Pearson, spending more money perhaps is not the answer. Glenn Murray looks a handy loan addition for their fellow play-off losers Brighton, while Sheffield Wednesday also have a new centre-forward in Steven Fletcher, signed on a free after leaving Sunderland.
Leeds have certainly been lively in the market, their new manager, Garry Monk, calling in old favours to get Matt Grimes and Kyle Bartley on loan from Swansea and snagging the highly rated forward Kemar Roofe from Oxford and Rob Green – yes, that Rob Green – to offer competition in goal.
Possibly the bargain of the summer has been completed by QPR, who have recruited Jordan Cousins, a 22-year-old midfielder whose fine performances were all the more impressive considering Charlton were crumbling around him, for a reported fee of £1.5m. The midfielder Robert Tesche, signed on a free by Birmingham, may be filed under the same low-key but shrewd banner.
Whisper it but Charlton, having suffered their inevitable relegation, look as if they are being run like a proper club under Russell Slade. It may not last and with Roland Duchâtelet little is ever certain but, with Nicky Ajose and Lee Novak through the door, they have the makings of a solid League One strike force, at least. Of course, without knowing who is leaving, perhaps judgment should be reserved.
Bolton have made maybe the best signing in League One so far, the centre-back Mark Beevers, who arrives on a free from Millwall after much talk that he could sign for a Championship club. Millwall themselves have brought in Gregg Wylde from Plymouth and Shaun Hutchinson from Fulham but could lose the striker Lee Gregory, the subject of interest from Rotherham. A word as well for Oxford, who have signed the midfielder Joe Rothwell from Manchester United and defender Curtis Nelson from Plymouth, both fine additions.
Spare a thought, though, for Oldham: they began pre-season training with no manager and four senior pros, although they have since appointed Steve Robinson and signed a further four players. They can now almost put out a team.
One of the more striking pieces of business came when Bradford bought the Blackpool goalkeeper Colin Doyle for exactly £1. No nominal fee coyness for these guys: the amount was due to a clause in Doyle’s contract that allowed him to leave Blackpool for free were they relegated, only that Football League regulations do not let players in effect walk away from a contract for nothing, hence £1. One hopes Bradford emptied their change jar and sent it over in coppers.
Quality can wait a minute but for quantity Crawley Town is the place to go: they have recruited 14 players, the latest being Addison Garnett, a former QPR youngster, who joins Mitchell Beeney (on loan from Chelsea) and Alper Tursun (from the Turkish side Alanyaspor) among many others.
Blackpool, putting the proceeds from the Doyle sale to good use, have shied away from their reputation as a complete shambles by making a few handy recruits, notably Kyle Vassell from Peterborough and Andy Taylor from Walsall. Leyton Orient have made interesting additions too, such as Yvan Erichot from Sint-Truiden in Belgium, plus Jordan Bowery (formerly of Aston Villa) from Oxford. Kevin Nolan will not be at Brisbane Road next season, though: he was replaced as manager by Andy Hessenthaler in January and technically stayed on as a player but did not appear on the pitch again and has left the club.
Finally Ade Akinfenwa’s plea, live on television after helping Wimbledon to win the play-off final, for prospective clubs to “hit me up on WhatsApp” bore fruit this week, as he signed a one-year contract with Wycombe and was promptly sent off on his debut in a friendly against the French side Le Havre – the old fashioned come-and-get-me plea brought into the 21st century.
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