When Newcastle United signed Chris Wood from Burnley last week it provoked a lot of smirking and sniggering on social media.
It can’t be denied that buying a 30-year-old striker from the lower reaches of the Premier League is not exactly the glamour signing you would expect from the world’s richest club. And, given that their newfound wealth has made Newcastle an easy target for the social media attack dogs, it’s hardly surprising the transfer instigated a lot of mockery.
But I tell you what, while this signing lacks the sparkle of buying a Neymar or an Mbappe, it is probably a move of sublime genius.
Even if a club embroiled in a desperate relegation battle could persuade a world-class star to join them right now, do they really need a player who is all flicks and tricks and has no working knowledge of the rigours of the Premier League? Kylian Mbappe may be special in the relatively uncompetitive arena of the French top-flight, but how would he cope having lumps kicked out of him on a freezing night in Brentford?
On the other hand, Chris Wood is a proper unit of a man, tough as nails and vastly experienced in England’s top-flight where he has been playing for a team that has made physical football an art form. In his four years with Burnley, he has scored 53 goals in 165 games, which is not a bad record at all. Especially so as he often plays as a lone striker in a battering ram sort of role.
But more than any of that, what Newcastle have done by triggering the New Zealander’s £25 million release clause is drive a massive knife through the heart of one of their main relegation rivals. Wood is pivotal to the way Burnley play and they are going to struggle to replace him over the next couple of weeks in any meaningful way. So even if he doesn’t shine at Newcastle, signing him will have caused significant disruption to a direct rival and that is probably worth £25 million in itself.
Some may see this a bit underhand and nasty. But all’s fair in love and war
Some may see this a bit underhand and nasty. But all’s fair in love and war. And right now, Newcastle are very much embroiled in a relegation war that they need to win if they want to be seeing the likes of Mbappe at St James’ Park anytime soon…
Lewis just wants to play fair
It’s not hard to see why Lewis Hamilton is disillusioned with Formula 1. The British driver was wrongly robbed of the title in the final race of last season, and even the most committed and competitive person is not going to accept a blatantly unlevel playing field.
Now, with the new season just weeks away, there are apparently doubts about whether Hamilton will take part. He is apparently refusing to commit to the sport until the FIA reveals the results of its inquiry into that infamous Abu Dhabi race.
I’ve heard some people suggesting he should stop having a tantrum, get back behind the wheel and use the injustice as an incentive to drive himself on this season. Well, I am pretty sure that is exactly what he wants to do.
After years of dominance in the sport he finally has a worthy opponent in Max Verstappen, and I don’t doubt for one second that he is relishing reigniting their battle on the track. But he needs to be able to do that with confidence that the fight will be a fair one, that rules are not going to be bent or broken on a whim, and that one driver isn’t favoured over another in pursuit of television drama.
Hamilton isn’t being a prima donna here, he is being exactly what he has always been – a top-level, competitive sportsman. I very much doubt he will turn his back on F1 whatever the FIA concludes. But they need to take this problem seriously and come out with a workable solution for the sake of a sport whose credibility has been torn to shreds.
The more we hear about the situation at Manchester United, the clearer it becomes that the club is not in a good place right now.
Although United have been scraping results since Ralf Rangnick arrived, the stories of unhappy stars and dressing room unrest are getting louder by the day. But let’s be honest, this isn’t a problem caused by Rangnick – this is a direct consequence of what happened during the Ole Gunnar Solskjær era.
One of the things that struck me the most during Ole’s time at Old Trafford was that he seemed too nice. He didn’t come across as the sort of manager who had the strength of personality to manage the level of players he had at his disposal. I suspect the fact that he was, by his very nature, eager to keep people happy, led to him being marginalised and manipulated by certain senior players.
Now Rangnick has come in and his more forceful and opinionated approach is not going down well with some ‘names’ in the dressing room who have been used to having things their own way and dictating proceedings.
What I don’t get is how the Manchester United hierarchy allowed the situation to deteriorate to this extent. If I, as a casual outside observer, suspected the club was being run by the players and not the manager, surely those on the inside must have seen it as well.
I get that they were reluctant to get rid of Ole because of his status within the club and their desire to not chop and change managers at the drop of a hat. But they must have known a club where the Indians are controlling the chief is never going to go very far.
Can Rangnick quell the unrest and get the club functioning as a unit again? Well, he is going to have to tread on some very self-important toes to do so. But then again, maybe that’s why United appointed him – to spend his short time in charge cleaning up the mess so whoever comes in in the summer has a clean slate to start with.
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