As a stuttering Newcastle United arrived in January 2017, Andros Townsend topped most transfer window wishlists on Tyneside.
The Magpies’ creative flair in the first half of the Championship season had relied largely on the talents of Jonjo Shelvey – playing in a central role – and Rafa Benitez’s wingers were a fairly uninspiring bunch.
Matt Ritchie was a guaranteed starter, although he had yet to really hit form, and Christian Atsu was an impact sub at best. Yoan Gouffran was fading, his contract up in the summer, and Rolando Aarons had suffered another injury setback.
But Townsend did not return to St James’ Park and few would have expected to see a very similar group of wide men tearing up the Premier League this festive season.
Gouffran departed and Jacob Murphy – another second-tier winger – arrived, while Atsu penned a permanent deal.
And slowly but surely, Newcastle’s input from the flanks has improved this term; Ritchie’s set-pieces remain a key attacking avenue, Atsu has developed into a genuine star, Aarons has stayed fit and Murphy is belatedly delivering.
This has been particularly evident over the four-game stretch from which Newcastle have collected seven points in recent weeks, with all four players starting at least once.
Atsu and Murphy are now at the fore, with the Ghanaian key in the win at West Ham before the former Norwich City man delivered a killer cross for Ayoze Perez to defeat Stoke City.
As Benitez looks to make moves again this January, Newcastle do not appear to be in need of a Townsend.
Chelsea’s Kenedy is a potential loan signing – Aarons, who remains a fringe man, could make way – but there is no doubt that the Magpies’ priorities now lie elsewhere.