It is almost eight years since Newcastle United produced arguably their finest Premier League performance of the modern era.
Yohan Cabaye’s 30-yard rocket of a free-kick was the undoubted highlight as Manchester United were battered 3-0 on a baltic January night on Tyneside; a rose-tinted reminder of the sort of top-quality talent which, once upon a time, plied their trade in black and white.
It was Cabaye, flanked by Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa and the dearly departed Cheikh Tiote, who fired an Alan Pardew-coached Magpies side to a fifth-place finish and Europa League qualification in 2011/12.
A repeat of that looks impossible now, of course, with mid-table mediocrity perhaps the limit of Newcastle’s ambitions.
But, as Manchester United fans will tell you, the addition of a genuine, match-winning talent at the heart of midfield can transform an underperforming team almost overnight and get even the most disillusioned fans dreaming of something better.
With January now just a few weeks away, could Newcastle use the winter window to land their very own Bruno Fernandes? That said, Cabaye himself would perhaps be a more fitting comparison for a set-piece master with an eye for the spectacular.
According to Jeunes Footeaux, Newcastle are rivalling a nouveau-riche Hertha Berlin outfit for the signature of Raphael Holzhauser in the January transfer window.
While the newly-capped Austria international is not exactly a familiar face on Tyneside, the statistics speak for themselves. In just 14 league games for Belgian outfit Beerschot this season, Holzhauser has produced a remarkable 10 goals and nine assists from his favoured central midfield role.
A clinical finisher, a fearsome free-kick taker, a lock-picking master; Holzhauser is the midfield maestro Newcastle have been missing since the so-called ‘French Dreamboat’ was leaving grown men lovestruck on the Gallowgate terraces.
When you consider that Newcastle’s midfielders have contributed a grand total of one league goal between them this season, dramatic improvements are quite clearly required in an area where Bruce’s side are outthought and outfought on an almost weekly basis.
Holzhauser is out of contract in July 2021 and could therefore be available on the cheap next month.
And while he alone may not be enough to spark a top-five finish or a return to European football, Holzhauser is the sort of signing who would waltz into Steve Bruce’s starting XI without breaking sweat.
In other news, Coach shares how Newcastle missed out on Shola Shoretire