The Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan and owner Mike Ashley will face a defining moment in their respective reigns when they meet today. Keegan and the man who appointed him will get together, along with executive director of football Dennis Wise, to discuss their efforts to take the club forward.
Of paramount importance to Keegan will be two issues: a progress report on the efforts of Wise and his recruitment team to provide him with the three or four players he feels he still needs, and news of the club's attempts to tie up star striker Michael Owen's new contract.
Time is not on Newcastle's side on the transfer front, with less than a week to go before the summer window closes. There has been talk all summer that Ashley will not sanction wholesale spending, and it is perhaps significant that the fees they have handed over for their three captures to date – Jonas Gutierrez, Fabricio Coloccini and Danny Guthrie – remain undisclosed.
There has also been intense speculation over a series of targets, some more realistic than others. Keegan has already had his disappointments. He was beaten to Luka Modric's signature by Tottenham at the end of last season, and he also got a negative response from Anton Ferdinand earlier in the summer. The West Ham defender's presence at Sunderland for a medical today will not have improved his mood.
But as Wise and vice-president for player recruitment Tony Jimenez go about their business, the names keep coming – Rennes midfielder Stephane Mbia and Udinese's Gokhan Inler were linked to the Magpies today.
Keegan confirmed after Saturday's 1-0 victory over Bolton that he was still looking for at least a defender, a midfielder and a striker. That list could increase should the club decide to cash in on any of their current players. Aston Villa's pursuit of James Milner has been relentless, while Everton have been monitoring Alan Smith's situation.
The owner will have other concerns too. He was among a crowd of 47,711 for the Bolton game and will have been acutely aware of the 5,000 or so empty seats and vacant executive boxes. Keegan suggested the time of year and the current credit crunch might have taken their toll, but rising season-ticket prices, promises of greater financial control and a lack of high-profile signings may be a more accurate explanation.Reuse content