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MICAH RICHARDS: Newcastle ripped the heart out of Burnley by signing Chris Wood

On the face of it, it looks like it’s just a transfer: Newcastle needed a striker, Chris Wood had a £25million breakout clause and Burnley had a sale commitment.

However, the reality of this deal is deeper and much broader. This is so much more than a transfer. This is something that could drastically change the future of two clubs. In Burnley’s case, it could even have an impact on the people they employ and the city where they are located.

People have wondered why Newcastle paid so much for a striker who became the most expensive player aged 30 or over in Premier League history and would have his contract expired in 18 months. I certainly don’t – it’s a good buy and it’s perfect for them in so many ways.

Newcastle showed big sign of intent by squeezing Burnley striker Chris Wood for £25m

Newcastle showed big sign of intent by squeezing Burnley striker Chris Wood for £25m

Wood's goals have been crucial over the years for the Clarets who have stayed in the Premier League

Wood’s goals have been crucial over the years for the Clarets who have stayed in the Premier League

In the short term, he will not have to adapt to the demands of the Premier League. He wouldn’t have been the first forward for Newcastle fans to sign under their new owners, but if the worst happens and they are relegated, he will be the perfect man to lead them out of the championship.

However, I don’t see a promotional campaign on Newcastle’s radar next year.

Why? They have landed one of the top nine-performing strikers in the Premier League over the past four years. Don’t take my word for it – just look at the numbers.

From 2017-18 to the end of last season were Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling, Alexandre Lacazette, Son Heung-min, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang… and Chris Wood.

Only nine players have double digits in four consecutive campaigns - one of them is Wood

Only nine players have double digits in four consecutive campaigns – one of them is Wood

When you consider that he is the only player in that group not to appear in the Champions League, it gives his consistency an extra shine. He scored 49 times in 144 Premier League appearances for Burnley and scored a further seven. He is a huge reason why Sean Dyche’s side has established itself in the top tier.

So Newcastle have improved their squad with quality but, just as importantly, they have significantly weakened one of their rivals. I have no doubt that Dyche will be furious about what happened, in the same way that Arsene Wenger was in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

At the time, Manchester City bought four Arsenal players in quick succession – Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri – and also tried to sign Robin van Persie. When you get stronger at the expense of the team you want to overtake, your task becomes a lot easier.

I also know what it’s like to have an important player removed from your team. City suffered in the season after we won the title when Nigel de Jong and Mario Balotelli came to AC Milan. When big characters leave, you can’t help but see the gaps that remain.

Sean Dyche is rightly furious that the Clarets are letting their main striker beat their rivals

Sean Dyche is rightly furious that the Clarets are letting their main striker beat their rivals

I can imagine what it will be like in Burnley’s dressing room. They will be devastated to see their focal point disappear and wonder what chance they got. Dyche, who has done such an amazing job, will feel exactly the same. The fans will be equally despondent.

I wonder what the mood will be at Turf Moor for the rest of the season. I mean this in the best possible way, but it’s a terrible place to play. Anything can happen to you when Burnley lifts his tail.

Like those days when Stoke played in the Premier League, you knew what was coming your way – a direct style that would keep you boxed in and a fight to get to the second balls – but quitting was always easier said than done.

Burnley’s players are like machines, programmed to do exactly what Dyche demands. Big and strong and aggressive, they are brilliant at providing a focal point for the local community, but you wonder what will happen if they can’t escape their current position.

Morale in the Burnley dressing room is likely to be low after Wood's loss to Newcastle

Morale in the Burnley dressing room is likely to be low after Wood’s loss to Newcastle

Players' mortgages and futures are at the bottom of the stake - this is more than just a transfer

Players’ mortgages and futures are at the bottom of the stake – this is more than just a transfer

A speech Kevin MacDonald once gave to the Aston Villa squad has never left me: in the year we went down, he spoke of the wide-ranging impact. Not on players but on the wider club. The people who had to pay mortgages and knew their jobs would be threatened if we were demoted.

There will certainly be fear at Burnley now, as there is no guarantee they will bounce right back to the Premier League. Newcastle, meanwhile, will feel the momentum is with them and could come out of the drop zone this afternoon beating Watford.

Football has an uncanny way of going for twists and turns and looking through both clubs’ matches my attention was drawn to the final day of the season when Newcastle went up against Burnley. Imagine Wood scoring the goal that will keep his new team afloat and send his old club down.

That’s why this is so much more than just a switch.

MICAH’S MAN OF THE WEEK

I predicted on this page on New Years Day that Jarrod Bowen would be a dark horse to make England’s World Cup squad and my confidence that he will get recognition from Gareth Southgate for Qatar is growing by the week.

West Ham star Jarrod Bowen claims real claim for England call-up later in 2022

West Ham star Jarrod Bowen claims real claim for England call-up later in 2022

Bowen goes from strength to strength and his double against Norwich means he has eight goals and eight assists for the season.

He hasn’t necessarily received the recognition he deserves for his influence on West Ham’s progress, but his importance to the team is immense. There’s more to come.

ETIHAD DUEL BECOMES A Clash of Styles

The weekend’s match takes place on Saturday afternoon and I am fascinated to see how it unfolds.

We know how Manchester City and Chelsea are going to handle this clash at the Etihad Stadium; City will dominate possession, Chelsea will try to cause problems on the counterattack.

Chelsea and Manchester City meet on Saturday in an interesting battle between the top two

Chelsea and Manchester City meet on Saturday in an interesting battle between the top two

Whenever I have doubts about Chelsea, they come back with a convincing answer and once again we saw the depth of their squad at Tottenham on Wednesday as they advanced to the Carabao Cup final.

City were brilliant in the reverse match but they will have to be just as good now.

I LOVE CAMEROON AT AFCON

The Premier League is obviously missing some stars playing in the Africa Cup Of Nations at the moment and I’ve tried to capture as much of the action as possible.

Host Cameroon have started very well with two wins out of two and have shown that they are a side that can score goals, which have largely been true in the tournament so far.

I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the tournament as it develops.

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