I can sense St. James’ Park lurking behind me outside my window, as I write this. It’s hard to ignore it, as it sits atop what a Norfolk man would baulk at and say is a bloody big hill.
Surrounded by a park and moors to the west and to the north, and the promise of a treble vodka with Dr Pepper for £2.95 just a few skips away on the other side, the stadium acts as a clear and ominous physical reminder to all who lives on Tyneside that football dominates this city. You can’t go anywhere without someone mentioning the footy. It can be suffocating and admirable at the same time.
Jacob Murphy will discover all this soon enough. There are restaurants where he can satisfy his Nando’s fix, but there are also plenty of other temptations. It will be like first day at big school, with no twin brother and no long-time friends like Angus Gunn to knock about with.
I imagine it could get lonely at times, especially if things don’t get off to a good start. Reportedly it was the Newcastle nightlife and the potential to get hindered by it that steered the Tammy Abraham loan deal away from the North East and towards Swansea, which may as well be in Narnia in comparison.
For a price of £12.5m, the transfer seems just about right for all involved now. As much as it pains me to say it. Nathan Redmond went to Southampton for around £11m last year, and Murphy could well emulate Redders by making a stab at the England senior squad, but we’ve got to remember just how little proven experience Jacob possesses.
Only a single season at Championship level compared to Redmond repping Birmingham and Norwich in the top two tiers over the course of six seasons. Like I say, I think the price is just about right given how it seems Rafa Benitez and Newcastle are desperate to make signings, plus the crazy market at present.
In addition, Marley Watkins has more goals and assists to his name from the last campaign at Barnsley, as folk rightly pointed out on Twitter yesterday, so there are positives to take from this.
The real crux of the matter will be how effectively this incoming cash will be used to strengthen the playing squad now, and maybe in January. Paddy Davitt has been reporting that a big chunk of the transfer money received up front will go towards clearing the club’s current £5m overdraft.
Will that mean we are we finally out of the woods and on an even keel money-wise? Time will tell.
I want to shoehorn one more analogy into this column if I can, and this relates to the headline. I’m sure everyone will have that one player they were devastated to see leave Carrow Road. For me, it was Craig Bellamy getting sold to Coventry City in the summer of 2000 for £6.5m.
I was nine years old and absolutely gutted to see the Bellamy-Roberts Welsh strike partnership broken up. What name was I to tell Mum to paint on my face now? Llewellyn was a bit tricky.
Bellamy, unlike Murphy, was clearly ready to play Premiership football, but it didn’t really work out for him. He scored eight goals for the Sky Blues that season and was duly out the door the following summer.
In his autobiography, Bellamy said: “I never once enjoyed it at Coventry. I felt quite demoralised. I had enjoyed myself so much at Norwich- but I found I had taken a backward step.”
Some may wish to label me the MFW Prince of Doom for suggesting this, but you could easily see something similar happening with Jacob next season.
Were there big expectations on the twins at the start of last campaign? No.
Did they look like they were enjoying themselves as a result? Yes mostly.
That will change for both starting from August, especially for Jacob.
Funnily enough, Bellamy also made the move to St. James’ Park and he thrived. His career went onto some incredible highs, playing in the Champions League and scoring goals alongside his best mate Alan Shearer.
It was the right time for Bellamy and Redmond to move but can the same be said for Jacob Murphy? I don’t think so, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he played more games for Newcastle U23s than in the Premier League for the first-team next season.
It will be a steep upward curve, nearly as steep as the hill outside St. James’ when you try to run up it with a beer belly. At the same time, it could be the springboard he needs to go onto the next level, and with no guarantees Norwich will be back in the Prem anytime soon you can forgive his logic for going.
I do wish him the best of luck, and if it doesn’t work out I’m sure he would be welcomed back to Norfolk. Just don’t get any ideas about tapping up Josh!