Newcastle and Sunderland will not be rushed into panic buys

Rivals Pardew and O'Neill will not be rushed into panic buys

Halfway through peeking in the window and so far all is quiet.

There have been rumours, there have
been talks, there have been endless meetings and flights and car
journeys for numerous scouts.

But so far the January window, the one
managers all claim to hate, has passed without any new faces or exits
from Newcastle United or Sunderland.

Waiting game: Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill wants to boost his attacking options

Waiting game: Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill wants to boost his attacking options

Middlesbrough have a new striker and have diligently checked the opposition, the lower leagues, affordable foreign options and more Premier League loans before going full circle and signing Coventry's Polish striker Lucas Jutciewicz. He will be a valuable addition if Boro are to maintain their promotion challenge.

Strikers are the priority for Alan Pardew and Martin O'Neill, although they have been checking out defenders too.

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January, and the wear and tear it brings, often dictates a club's transfer targets and in Newcastle's case the absence of Demba Ba has raised very public concerns, and they got through the uninspiring win over Queens Park Rangers thanks to Leon Best's first goal in 10 and with no recognised striker on the bench as back-up to the Republic of Ireland striker and Shola Ameobi.

Best's finish, and the exquisite use of his feet to bamboozle Anton Ferdinand and Paddy Kenny was a reminder of his talents which have been overshadowed by Ba's brilliance and prowess, and his own genuine misfortune in front of goal. He has also not started every game.

The fragility of the defensive unit has already been exposed, and Newcastle just about got through December, but an injury to Fabricio Coloccini and you have to fear the consequences.

So a body, anybody would do but Pardew, who has been careful not to stray from his 'no comment' mantra long before the window opened, has said he will be careful before he adds to his squad.

He said: 'There's money available to me and I think we'll take a player if we think one works for us, financially and for the team. We've got to remember that we've got a really tight bunch here and don't want to upset it.'

Alan Pardew says he has money to spend

Back up: Alan Pardew insists he has money to spend

O'Neill has been pretty tight-lipped about his intentions too but he did meet Ellis Short before the weekend defeat at Chelsea which ruthlessly exposed his team's lack of reliable firepower.

Although Fraizer Campbell is close to a return, he is being carefully ushered back into contention which perhaps indicates expectations will be kept under control when he is ready. And that O'Neill is prepared to look elsewhere for reinforcements.

Like Pardew, He has been hit by injuries to his defence, although most will be back to full fitness by the end of the month.

Agents have been busy offering players but the new man will be careful and eager to show his chairman that he is clever and astute in the market, as well as the dug-out. It could help shape his budget in the summer.

The problems with Darlington

As Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough prepare to spend a few million, and shift a players in the transfer window like chess pieces in a bid to mould squads for the remainder of the season, one North East club looks certain to go to the wall this week.

The money which the three big guns aim to spend in January is not particularly obscene compared to previous transfer windows. The players, management, staff and supporters of Darlington will still look at such figures with heavy hearts.

Folly: Darlington's grand stadium has cost them dear

Folly: Darlington's grand stadium has cost them dear

When you ask these people, and those in this region who cover the club more closely, just where it has all gone wrong, who is to blame, they all have their different theories and guilty parties. It's complicated. And it's a sorry, sorry mess.

But you go back to that move from Feethams, the agonising play-off defeat David Hodgson's team suffered in one of the old Wembley's final games, and the folly that was George Reynolds' reign, and it's hard to look beyond that.

I visited Darlington Arena several times, the last competitive game was the FA Cup tie with York City which their Conference rivals, who have been through their own financial/ground difficulties, won to earn the right to play Bolton away. There was enough spare room in the 25,000 seater stadium for us to all have our own rows.

It was nothing on Feethams, which was a tight abyss of noise for night games and had that added attraction of the nearby river to make the playing surface a gluey quagmire. It's sorely missed.

Reynolds' ambitions got the better of him, and the club. I was among the press along for the ride with the former safebreaker and he knew how to put the club on the map. In the end, not for the right reasons.

But when questioned, as he was at length back then, on the decision to move to a wasteland on the edge of the town, Reynolds always insisted he believed a successful team could attract supporters from beyond Darlington. And he would draw a pretty big, unrealistic circle.

If they had achieved promotion under Hodgson, who fought valiantly for so long for the club and deserved success for his endeavours, Reynolds' theory might have been tested. But they never really recovered.

The last chairman Raj Singh did his best, but failed to summon support from anyone who would listen to his pleas. The man and his pocket could take no more.

After three administrations, and the devastating relegation to the Conference after a points deduction, the life has been slowly sucked out of the club.

The staff are gone, years of loyalty thrown in their faces, manager Craig Liddle and the ten players he had left were sacked on Monday.

Thanks to supporters who are refusing to let the club die, the administrators who so cruelly made the heroic Liddle and his loyal players redundant, will meet potential investors on Wednesday in a final bid to rescue the club.

It means they are likely to field a team of youth and academy players at home to Conference leaders Fleetwood on Saturday. If the game does go ahead, let's hope North East football fans will turn out to support them.

Despite their difficulties, Darlington have invested well in their youth system and they have found a rich seam of youngsters for their academy, cashing in on some who were overlooked by the big three at tender ages.

This weekend may offer an unexpected and potentially harsh opportunity but soon for many of them a path to professional football could be closed.

Hopefully the FA and PFA will be there to keep their dreams alive, if not what's wrong with the big three offering them fresh starts Just a thought.