The 7th of October 2021 is quite simply a day that Newcastle United supporters will never forget. On this momentous day, unpopular owner Mike Ashley sold the club.
The Saudi-Arabian investment fund bought Newcastle and appointed Amanda Staveley as CEO. This event lifted the spirits of the supporters after a dismal start to the season under then manager Steve Bruce, where Newcastle were win-less after six games and found themselves in the relegation zone.
Steve Bruce only lasted one game under the new owners which was a narrow 3-2 loss at home to Tottenham Hotspur. He was then sacked and replaced by caretaker manager Graham Jones. The new hierarchy had unrealistic ambitions over who could replace the now West Bromwich Albion manager. Names like Villarreal boss Uni Emery, former Roma manager Paulo Fonseca and then Rangers manager Steven Gerrard were reportedly all on the club’s shortlist.
Their manager hunt went on for much longer than expected with many questioning the owners’ competence. Eventually after nearly a month without a manager and three more games passed without a first win of the season Eddie Howe was announced as the Magpies new boss, 15 months after his last job in management.
The former Bournemouth manager’s appointment was seen as anti-climatic after some of the names that were linked with the job. He was definitively not the preferred choice of Amanda Staveley and co. but his objective was clear, keep Newcastle in the Premier League at all costs. The 44-year-old had to wait for his first game in the dugout after he tested positive for COVID-19 before the teams 3-3 draw with Brenford.
In the next game against Aresnal, Eddie Howe finally got to grace the sideline in a 2-0 loss at the Emirates. This result saw Newcastle’s run without a win stretching to 13 games. Most supporters and pundits alike had written off the club as certainties for relegation in November.
It wasn’t until the 4th of December that Newcastle got their first win of the season against their relegation rivals and Howe’s former team Burnley. The team then faced a daunting run of fixtures in the league to finish out the calendar year with games against Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United. Newcastle lost three out of the four games conceding twelve goals and scoring just two.
It was the last game in that run against Manchester United where it seemed like the team really had turned the corner. Gone was the boring, unimaginative, football that was seen under Steve Bruce. Instead the players looked inspired, they played exciting counter-attacking football, the type of football Newcastle United supporters hadn’t seen since the Bobby Robson days. St. James’ park was bouncing. The supporter’s never failed to get behind their team during the darkest days of the Mike Ashley era, and it felt that this was the first time in 14 or so years that the players were able to reward the supports for the incredible support.
Allan Saint Maximin gave the Magpies the lead on 7 minutes as he stole the show, tormenting Diogo Dalot down the left hand side with his unpredictability and terrifying pace until he was taken off after 83 minutes. Joelinton, who was written off as a £40 million ‘flop’ after he failed to impress playing as a striker or left winger in the last two seasons, so-much-so that he was striped of the famous number 9 shirt in the summer. In this game however, the Brazilian looked re-invented playing as an energetic box-to-box midfielder as he dominated the Manchester United midfield. Manchester United were able to grab an equaliser from Edison Cavani, nevertheless a point against the Manchester club was a good result and it was this game that kick started an eight game unbeaten run in the league.
The January transfer window was a great chance for the club to flex their new financial powers, especially in their ongoing relegation battle. Signings of the calibre of right-back Kieran Tripper who was brought in from Atletico Madrid. Premier League proven centre-back Dan Burn and striker Chris Wood and the elite defensive midfielder Bruno Guimaraes. The latter of which was presented as a real coup by Newcastle as the Brazilian could easily step into the midfield of Arsenal, Manchester United or Tottemham Hotspur and instantly improve their team. This transfer window demonstrates the pull that Newcastle United will have in the transfer market in the coming years.
It has taken little time for these signing to settle in at the club. Before his injury, Tripper was reminding everybody about the quality he had showed for Spurs before he left in 2019. Dan Burn has solidified Newcastle’s shaky defence with the club only conceding three goals since his debut. Chris Wood has linked with Allan Saint-Maximin and this partnership looks well equipped to deal with a relegation scrap.
Bruno Guimaraes is struggling to break into the team as of yet due to the great performance’s of Joe Willock, Jonjo Shelvey and Joelinton in the Newcastle midfield nonetheless, there is no doubt the 24-year-old will get a chance to show his quality in the black and white.
As of now it is hard to see Newcastle United getting relegated. There is too much momentum on their side and the feeling around the club must be of great excitement for the future. Eddie Howe seems to be very popular with the squad. Tripper talked about this:
The training has been tough. Since I arrived, the team has become so much fitter, so much stronger, (and) organised. That comes from the manager so he deserves huge credit.
He’s the type of manager that wants to be on the front foot and play attractive football. All the lads are loving training and they love the manager.
It is worth remembering how highly rated Eddie Howe was when Bournemouth were first in the Premier League. His side always played good football and managed to record some impressive scalps in the top flight.
It is hard to overstate how impressive of an achievement it was to keep the Cherries in the Premier League for five seasons with the lack of resources available to him. He was tipped to be England’s manager one day and was linked with big jobs such as Arsenal on numerous occasions.
The future definitely looks bright for Newcastle United. They obviously have a huge financial backing and have already shown how competitive they are in the transfer market with the signings they have made whilst in the depth of a relegation battle.
It is very important that the club don’t just strive to be the best team in the league but also the best club. This was the approach that Manchester City took after their takeover and look at what they have achieved. Everything about their club is perfect, from the stadium, to the academy, to the training facilities and to the community work they have done in the local area. Newcastle must also strive for this perfection, if so they will have the resources to dominate European football in 10 to 20 years time.