They say that everyone deserves a second chance and to be fair to Newcastle they’re not afraid to hand them out. Whether it’s giving notorious bad boy Joey Barton yet another chance or letting fist-happy Andy Carroll keep his first team place last season, St James’ Park is becoming something of a magnet for second chances. So what should Newcastle manager Chris Hughton do with the returning Spanish striker Xisco?
Francisco Jiménez Tejada is the most recent flop to arrive on Tyneside, following in the footsteps of countrymen Marcelino, Albert Luque and way too many more to name. Bought in the days when Dennis Wise was in charge of purchases, Xisco’s first games for the Toon turned out to be little more than a damp squib. Signed from Deportivo for £5.7m, Xisco netted once in seven games before Hughton, with little more than a second thought, shipped the Spaniard back to La Liga and Racing Santander. Now Xisco is set to return to Newcastle for the upcoming Premier League season, but can the striker perform the most remarkable of turnarounds?
Many of Newcastle’s foreign contingent have done just that. Fabricio Coloccini had a pretty torrid time in his first season in the Premier League, but twelve months later and a Championship winning campaign under his belt and the fuzzy-haired defender looks much more comfortable in the British game. Left back Jose Enrique was the Toon’s best player last season and I’d have no qualms about the Spaniard being good enough at the top level. Jonas Gutierrez terrorised defences with regular occurrence and will be relishing the tougher tests that 2010/11 will provide. Of course the Premier League is a completely different proposition to the Championship, but the Latin trio have done all they can.
The problem for Xisco is that he doesn’t have that year’s experience in England under his belt. He was hardly prolific for Racing, scoring just three times, and I’m not sure that the scouting reports have been exactly glowing. The good news for him is that Hughton has said he will “start afresh” and “get the chance to impress like everyone else.” I for one wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if he’d have left in the summer and I’m sure the Newcastle hierarchy did everything they could within reason to get rid of him. But he’s back now, the question is will he grab his chance this time around?
Given the money that Newcastle have invested in Xisco they have to welcome him back with open arms. However, I’m not exactly confident that the Spaniard will prove to be a different proposition this time round. It’s not often that players can transform their game in a short space of time and it’s unlikely that Xisco will be one of them. With Carroll, Lovenkrands, Ameobi and Ranger all ahead of him in the pecking order, it will be up to the striker to impress in training and show what he’s made of. Come January though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Toon try to cut their losses again, and add Xisco to their long list of failed imports.