Any last hope that Shola Ameobi might figure on Glenn Roeder's New Year shopping list appeared to have ended this evening as new Magpies boss Kevin Keegan told the Evening Chronicle that letting anyone out now would be “madness”.
The 26-year-old striker has long been on the Canary chief's 'most wanted' list. And but for Sam Allardyce's exit earlier this month, the out-of-favour 6ft 2in striker might already have been installed at Carrow Road on loan until the end of the season.
Instead, in came 'King Kev' and with his arrival went Roeder's final hope of playing the 'Lee Clark' card and prising Ameobi out of Tyneside for a reunion with his one-time teenage coach in Norfolk.
“I can't let anybody out,” Keegan told tonight's Evening Chronicle, with the paper putting two likely names in the frame – Ameobi and fellow striker Andy Carroll.
But with the Newcastle manager now admitting that he was unlikely to have any joy in his own search for reinforcements before tomorrow's midnight deadline, so he was left to bolt the stable door before any other horse bolted.
Likewise, last night's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal and the decision of North-East boy Jonathan Woodgate to spurn the Toon's advances in favour of a switch to London with Spurs has left everyone at St James' looking down the Premiership table rather than up.
Given that Newcastle have now gone 404 minutes without a Premiership goal and have taken just two points from the last 21, that unease is understandable.
This weekend they face Middlesbrough who are just two points below them; Sunderland suddenly are only four points away from over-hauling their near-neighbours. And all with Dennis Wise's little face now popping up in the directors' box.
“I've had inquiries for three players ? one loan and two to sell ? but I can't do it. It would be madness,” said Keegan tonight. ?It would be impossible to sell as I haven't got enough players.?
The fact that Newcastle's four-strong contribution to the African Cup of Nations leaves Tyneside short of bodies for at least another week hardly helps; nor does Mark Viduka's ever-changing moods.
Little surprise that Keegan has found space for the local boy in his early plans with Ameobi being a 73rd minute substitute at The Emirates last night.
Back in Norfolk and all eyes are still focussed on the back end of the team where Roeder's long-held plan to bolt at least one new centre-half into his plans are due – in theory – to come to fruition tomorrow morning with the Canary boss revealing last night that he was “very confident” of being able to unveil at least two new faces ahead of the midnight hour.
After his own man of the match efforts in that St Mary's shut-out, Jason Shackell appeared unmoved by the prospect of fresh defensive reinforcements arriving at Colney in the next 24 hours.
“You can't affect who the gaffer's going to bring in,” said Shackell, clearly benefitting from having the weight of captaincy lifted from his shoulders.
“It's always good to have healthy competition and we do need a centre-half – we haven't got enough at the club.”
Roeder's options are distinctly limited. After Shackell and Gary Doherty, he has just the teenage Michael Spillane and the 38-year Dion Dublin to select from. And given the latter's command performance leading the line alongside Ched Evans last night, Roeder would be wholly loathe to shift his veteran marksman off the front-line.
“It would be a welcome addition and like you say, competition makes everyone up their game a little bit,” added Shackell.
As for last night's latest away-day success, Shackell was delighted to be leaving St Mary's with three big points tucked away in his top pocket, as Lehicester boss Ian Holloway might put it.
“It wasn't a nice game a- we rode our luck at times,” admitted the 24-year-old. “But hockelw many times can you say that you played really well, but didn'lt get the victory? But today we've come away with a great three points.”
It looked set to be only one come the 67th minute as Stern John prepared to punish Doherty's glaring handball from the penalty spot – only to blaze horribly over.
“You don't know how glad I was to see that go over – or to hear the final whistle,” said Shackell.
Was it a penalty? “Yeh – it was a penalty,” said the City centre-half, simply.
“We've had a laugh about it in the dressing room. One of the boys has shouted to Doc (Doherty) that 'He's got to make it…' so he did what he did. But I thought Doc played really well again today. Really well.
“It was just one of those things – but nice to see the penalty go over.”
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