It does not help that the new owners also took over a club that had a clean balance sheet under Mike Ashley but also a chronic lack of infrastructure. There was just one director, Lee Charnley, who has since gone. They made matters worse by coming in without a new chief executive in place – that recruitment process is already taking an inordinate amount of time through the use of headhunters – and without a director of football. Those two charges lie at their door.
Nicky Hammond is fulfilling the role of short-term transfer consultant but it is an unsatisfactory state of affairs for a Premier League club whose leadership undoubtedly lacks experience in a situation where there is no time to bed in.
Neither does it help that the most significant part of the consortium is the Saudi Public Investment Fund which is famed for its “process-driven” approach. Every decision that is made needs a comprehensive case to be put forward, and while the thoroughness cannot be questioned, it makes progress painfully slow.
Mistakes will be made. City bought Robinho for £32.5m on the day the Abu Dhabi takeover went through in 2008; Chelsea paid £15.8m for Adriam Mutu in the first Roman Abramovich splurge in 2003. The difference for Newcastle is not just that they are coming off a far lower base – their squad is nowhere near as good as those as were inherited at Chelsea and City – but that the threat of relegation is so very genuine. The margin for error is already extremely small.
There is one comfort. The reality for Newcastle fans is that, while they desperately do not want their club to go down, they would probably have accepted relegation if it came with the trade-off of Ashley’s departure. That buys the new owners time and goodwill, as long as they continue to do the right things with their custodianship.
This month, more than any other window in which the new owners will operate, is a balancing act. They have to do enough – and be seen to do enough given the financial muscle they can flex – to avoid relegation but not spend so heavily that it saddles the club with onerous contracts, especially if the worst happens.
Neither do Newcastle want to be in a situation where they are left with a group of players who may keep them up but they do not really want, but who have lucrative deals, because they are not good enough to take them where they want to be. It is understandable that Trippier, for example, has been made the highest earner but other potential new signings will have taken note. Plus he is 31 and there is no value in him, probably, beyond the length of his contract. There cannot be too many of those kind of deals.
Undoubtedly, Newcastle have the resources to get it right and that gives them every chance. But the big question remains: do they also have the know-how?