Newcastle United are a club that have lurched from one farcical story to another in recent years – from Joe Kinnear’s comical radio interview, to Alan Pardew’s various touchline-boxing shenanigans. From players to board members, we’re never far from drama, comedy or downright ridiculousness at St James’ Park.
This season has been an unmitigated disaster on the pitch, I think it’s fair to say, but they’ve certainly attempted to out-do themselves off the pitch with a blunder that could ending up costing them millions of pounds. For in their desperation to tie up the signings of both Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend in January, they overlooked one small detail – a relegation wage drop.
Now anyone that’s played Championship/Football Manager over the years will tell you that this kind of clause is regularly written into contracts, especially at struggling teams. Whether it was arrogance on the club’s behalf – believing that they wouldn’t go down – or merely a catastrophic oversight amid the desperation to sign the players they thought would help them fend off relegation, the contractual cock-up will see one, if not both, those players shipped out at a loss should they go down.
And currently it’s looking very likely they will go down. So what next for the two young Englishmen signed just three short months ago? Their contracts amount to over £7m a year, a sum that a club in the Championship simply cannot hope to maintain. Whether either would take a pay-cut is unknown, but of the two, Shelvey would probably be their choice to keep, and the player himself has in fact stated his desire to stay at St James’ Park no matter what.
This may leave Townsend without a home. It’s an unfortunate situation for a player who not that long ago was among the next great hopes at international level, a favourite of Roy Hodgson during in the run-up to the last World Cup and during the early games in EURO 2016 qualifying. But the pacey winger’s rejection by Pochettino at Spurs, and subsequent sale to Newcastle, has seen his form suffer and chances with England disappear.
So what are the options for the talented, if slightly mercurial youngster? (24 is still relatively young) What sort of clubs are going to want to invest their money in a player who has generally underwhelmed in recent times – a one-trick pony some would say, but who has age, experience and plenty of pace on his side? Unlikely to be picked up by any of the top seven or eight clubs, the best fit would potentially be one of last year’s promoted sides.
Both Bournemouth and Watford play a predominantly 4-4-2 system, one that suits Townsend’s ability and position. You could see him fitting in well at both those sides, the Cherries particularly. Eddie Howe has a good collection of young English talent on the South Coast and Townsend would likely be a welcome addition to his side. Despite their relatively small size, Bournemouth have plenty of financial clout behind them so the price-tag wouldn’t be an issue – around £8m is practically a snip in Premier League terms anyway.
I can certainly see Townsend resurrecting his career at a young, energetic side like Bournemouth and hopefully he will. He’s got the talent, he just needs belief in him and a good run of games. Elsewhere, clubs like Swansea of even Crystal Palace (should they lose Yannick Bolasie) could do a lot worse than acquire his services, even one or two of the promoted sides – none of whom I’m going to speculate on just yet!
Townsend shouldn’t be short of suitors if the Magpies do decide to cut their losses and move him on, if/when they get relegated. The skills that led the North East side to bring him to the club are likely to be attractive to a number of clubs looking to bolster their squads. Whether or not a move will be enough to push him back into reckoning for the England set-up remains to be seen, but that looks a long way off for now.
In the meantime all he can hope for is a move to a good club that suits his style of play and gives him game time. Find that and the Andros Townsend that we saw flying down the Wembley sidelines just a couple of years ago might come back.