Mick Lowes

Mick Lowes has long been the voice of the Magpies on BBC Radio Newcastle, and every fortnight he writes an exclusive blog for nufc.co.uk. Here he reflects on the January transfer window - and urges fans to keep their feet on the ground despite United soaring into fifth place in the Barclays Premier League with victory over Blackburn...

In my last blog, I wrote that I was more concerned with Newcastle keeping their key players than who they signed in the Janaury transfer window - so for the club to not only have done that, but also signed a big money striker, is fantastic.

First and foremost, I felt it was about keeping the crown jewels - the likes of Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Demba Ba to name but three - and they've managed to do that. I know there were little bits of interest but the fact that the football club's top players are still with us for the remainder of the season is a big, big plus.

Making sure we didn't have a repeat of the Andy Carroll scenario of 12 months ago was the priority and that didn't happen. And on top of that, we've had the added bonus of the arrival of another top striker in Papiss Cisse.

His track-record is very good and you just have to hope he adapts to English football. It is slightly different to the Bundeslia, where he had been playing for Freiburg, but the German top flight is probably as similar in style to the Premier League as any in Europe. And it can only help that he has his Senegal team-mate Dema Ba alongside him. It'll help that they already have an understanding and the language barrier won't be a problem because there are so many French-speaking players in the squad.

And if he can make anything like the impact on Tyneside that his compatriot Ba has, then there are exciting times ahead.

I know fans - myself included - would have liked United to sign another centre-half, but I know how hard they tried. It would still have been nice to get somebody in, but I do think James Perch's form of late has probably been a factor in them being happy to go without a new defender. Perch has done well at centre-back when he's been called on, and played very well at Blackburn in that holding midfield role.

A back-up centre-half might still have been nice but all in all, I don't think the transfer window could have gone any better and I think the signing of Cisse suggests that Newcastle are not resting on their laurels. We've been top half all season and continue to find ourselves on the cusp of potential European qualification, and the arrival of people like Cisse can only help that cause.

It will strengthen the squad and that's important, because we're without Yohan Cabaye for two more games, without Cheick Tiote for the foreseeable future and let's not forget we're without Steven Taylor long-term as well. Any team that has lost a central midfield pairing of the quality of Cabaye and Tiote is going to suffer, which is why I think Perch's performance at Blackburn was all the more interesting and exciting.

That win at Ewood Park was United's 11th of the season - an amazing stat because it equalled our return in the whole of last season. Last season wasn't a bad one at all, yet normally if you improve season-on-season you'll look to eclipse or match the previous term's record with maybe a month to go, or six weeks if you're lucky.

Newcastle have equalled what they achieved in terms of wins last season with 15 games to go. There is an enormous opportunity to not only improve this season, but improve in a big, big way. There's no reason why we can't be looking at a handful of further wins between now and the end of the season.

But with regard to the final league placing, and talk of finishing in the top five or six, I'm still inclined to shy away from even thinking about such things.

I think it's dangerous, and expectation is something that has to be managed. There's nothing wrong with expectation, with fans dreaming and hoping, but they have to continue to be realistic about the situation.

Providing we're there or thereabouts and still on the coat-tails of the top five or six, we've got a chance - but let's just keep going. Where it takes us, let's just wait and see.

Just finally, it'll be fantastic to see Shay Given back on Tyneside this weekend. I've still got a prized, signed team sheet from 1st January, 2007, against Manchester United, when he made his 400th appearance for Newcastle United.

At that stage, it looked like he would go on to play a load more games and whatever the circumstances of him leaving, the guy was a fantastic servant to this football club and I'm sure he'll get a magnificent reception on Sunday.