Football is back!
A 1-0 away win against Southampton was the last time we saw Newcastle United action: that was on the 7th of March and in the 3 months since we’ve eagerly anticipated the return of Premier League football.
And with the Premier League confirming its return on the 17th June, the Magpies are set to host Sheffield United on the 21st of June. And will also hope to continue a remarkable FA Cup run against Manchester City.
Until football comes back to our screens however, let’s recount the best moments (in no particular order) of the campaign so far:
1) Matty Longstaff stuns Manchester United
19 years and 199 days. That’s how old Matty Longstaff was on the 6th October, 2019. The youngster was making his Premier League debut as the Magpies hosted Manchester United: a side who Steve Bruce had failed to defeat at any point of his managerial career.
So, with the scores still at 0-0 in the 72nd minute, a quick Newcastle break saw Jetro Willems tee up the younger Longstaff brother, who found the back of the net from outside the box to break the deadlock and send shockwaves around St James’ Park.
The win was a much needed rebound from a humiliating 0-5 defeat at Leicester, and introduced the footballing world to yet another footballing talent from the North East of England.
With Longstaff’s Newcastle future currently in a state of uncertainty, amid links to the likes of Inter Milan, the lad from South Shields will most definitely be remembered for this moment of magic.
2) Cometh the hour, cometh Jonjo Shelvey
Even after a £40m striker was signed in the Summer, Jonjo Shelvey is somehow Newcastle’s top scorer in the league this season so far.
A polarising player at even the best of times, Shelvey has produced some decisive strikes for the Toon this season.
From a cracking equaliser at home to Man City to his perfect free kick against West Ham
And then there was the midfielder’s controversial goal against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane: the old adage goes ‘Play to the whistle’, and Shelvey did exactly that: rounding the ball past Dean Henderson as the entire Sheffield defence stood and watched thinking he was offfside, before a VAR ruling confirmed Newcastle had indeed doubled their lead.
Some of it was complete beauty, some of it was controversial, but when Jonjo Shelvey truly showed up on a pitch, sparks flew and sensational football was the product.
3) Miguel Almiron finally gets his goal
Back in January 2019, Miguel Almiron finally became Newcastle United’s record signing, with the Paraguayan forward joining from MLS side Atalanta United, and he made a strong impression in first few games for the Magpies.
But goals and assists eluded the 26 year old, until Newcastle hosted Crystal Palace in late December. Almiron broke the deadlock late on to a thunderous ovation. You could see the emotion on both the players and the fans as the South American was finally rewards for his high effort and drive.
Since then, Almiron has continued this form, with big goals against Wolves in the league, and a brace against West Brom in the FA Cup: we can expect to see Miguel Almiron to remain an attacking presence for Newcastle for much of the near future.
4) Martin Dubravka: goalkeeping masterclass
Newcastle United, in spite of the dire quality of football they have played out this season, can boast a relatively strong home record.
A huge factor in these fine results has been the performance of goalkeeper Martin Dubravka: a one man brick wall, Dubravka has recorded the most saves in the Premier League this season, and has been universally regarded as the Toon’s player of the season.
Although not immune to making mistakes, the Slovakian shot stopper further proved this season that his €5m transfer from Sparta Prague was worthy every penny. One could think that a return to a more defensive style could yield even greater performances from Dubravka in the near future.
5) Defence is the best form of attack
Goals were frankly a bit scarce in number this past season: Joelinton recorded just one (vs Spurs back in August 2019), and it took awhile for Newcastle’s wingers to even register contributions on the pitch.
But instead the goals came from the back line itself: time after time this season Newcastle have proven to be particularly dangerous from set pieces and scrambles in the opposition box, with Fabian Schar, Federico Fernandez, and Ciaran Clark just some of the names to have been on the scoresheet in the league this year.
Special mention must go to Dutch wingback Jetro Willems however: on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt,Willems not only provided the assist for the aforementioned Matty Longstaff goal, but produced a remarkable strike against Liverpool at Anfield.
Canny stuff from the defence this season, wouldn’t you say?
6) There’s a new famous Allan on Tyneside
Move over Alan Shearer, cos we’re here to talk about another Saint: Allan Saint-Maximin to be precise.
The £20m signee from OGC Nice has dazzled and wowed fans across the league, with his pace, flair, and dribbling rivalling even the very best in the Premier League.
Although he may not have the stats to back up his skills, Saint Maximin has won the hearts and minds of the Newcastle faithful, with a pivotal goal against Oxford in the FA Cup offering an exciting glimpse as what’s to come from the young winger.
Plus he’s the undisputed best footballer on social media. That’s a trophy in itself.
7) Isaac Hayden’s last gasp goal against Chelsea
0-0 in the 93rd minute. Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have bombarded Steve Bruce’s side for much of the 90 minutes, but Newcastle found themselves with one last throw at the dice.
Isaac Hayden, having already played in an unfamiliar full back position for that game, was the unlikely winner as he met Saint-Maximin’s deep cross to put the ball past Kepa right in front of the Gallowgate End.
It was a trademark Newcastle performance in the Steve Bruce era: withstand the firepower of a superior team like Man Utd, Man City, and Chelsea, before snatching 3 points from the jaws of defeat. If they only they could replicate such performances against smaller sides, then Newcastle would likely be pushing for Europe.
8) How’s the FA cup victories you say?
I’ve mentioned briefly Newcastle have recorded some fascinating FA cup triumphs this season, and it’s led to the Magpies’ first appearance in the Quarter Finals since 2006.
Starting in the 3rd round, the Magpies survived a first leg scare before producing a dominant win over lower league Rochdale. Consecutive 3-2 wins over Oxford United and West Bromwich Albion, which highlighted the vital influence Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron, and Sean Longstaff have to the Tyneside team.
9) Florian Lejeune does the unthinkable
It had looked like another pitiful performance from Newcastle: 2-0 down at Goodison Park to an Everton side who had already beaten them all in the reverse fixture weeks prior.
The clock began to dwindle and entered additional time, where Newcastle found themselves with a corner to try and grab a late consolation goal.
Enter Florian Lejeune: after a frankly disastrous performance against Leicester on New Year’s Day, the former Eibar defender managed to pull off an over head kick goal to half the deficit.
A repeat situation occurred mere moments later, as the travelling Geordies found themselves with another opportunity in the fifth minute of stoppage time: Everton made a poor clearance from a free kick, with Lejeune being the one to poke both the ball past Pickford and one in the eye for the distraught home supporters at Goodison Park.
A bizarre but glorious ending to a match that Newcastle had no right in securing points from, but what a moment for Florian Lejeune: a massive morale boost not only for an injury prone defender, but a team who now know they can supersede expectations in spite of the odds against them.
10) The Takeover?
Rumblings emerged in February: it was nothing out of the ordinary for Newcastle fans: failed takeover attempts are an annual occurrence.
But this one, ladies and gentlemen, is different:
A joint consortium including the Reuben Brothers and the Saudi government/PIF have (at the time of writing) paid their deposit to Mike Ashley for the purchase of Newcastle football club.
Fan anticipation grew and grew: mutual and rival fans for years talked up Newcastle United as one of England’s largest clubs and a dormant, sleeping giant ready for awakening.
All eyes are on Tyneside now, with the Premier League, after much intervention and scrutiny from MPs and even Bein Sport over privacy concerns, looks set to green light the takeover of Newcastle United.
Now imagine saying that 6 months ago….