Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton has urged club owner Mike Ashley to spend the £35million accrued from selling Andy Carroll to enable them to challenge for a European spot.
Alan Pardew's side moved up to ninth spot in the Premier League thanks to Tuesday's 2-0 victory at Birmingham. But Barton believes the Magpies need to add another half a dozen top-quality players to the squad if they are to become a major force and that Carroll's sale could be the golden ticket that lets them do that in the summer.
Barton said: "I know it's the nature of this club sometimes that it's stop-start. As soon as we get something going, players get sold and then we have to start again. It feels like it's a constant work-in-progress and it is tough in that respect although we have character and spirit in abundance. We've got some good players in there and, if we can add more to that in the summer, then we've got the basis, a spine of a top side and a side that is capable of challenging for Europe, in my opinion.''
Barton added: "We need a squad to compete on all fronts and we want to do that. That's up to the men upstairs to make sure we amass a squad and get the bodies in to challenge for Europe. You need to spend money. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys so hopefully they spend it (the Carroll money) and spend it wisely. We've probably got 15-16 Premier League-quality players with that experience but I think you need 20-22 to really compete at the top end.''
Barton is full of praise for Leon Best for the way he has grabbed the chance presented to him after Carroll's departure to Liverpool on the final day of the January transfer window. The former Coventry player scored with a powerful header to wrap up the points at St Andrew's.
Barton said: "Besty has taken the bull by the horns so if anyone doubted him before, he's shown what he is about in abundance. Strikers live and die on goals and he's done that. We've got enough quality in the side that. If they are willing to work and put a shift in for the team, then we'll get chances.''
Barton is adamant Newcastle have always looked up the Premier League rather than contemplating a relegation battle.
He said: "We were never really looking at it like that (a relegation fight). Obviously the league is tight, but the quality and spirit here is fantastic. We went to Birmingham, a tough place where they had lost only twice before this season, and were very comfortable.''