That’s it then, pre-season completed and a look ahead to the real stuff this Saturday evening at SJP when those fortunate enough to get hold of tickets will welcome in a new season.

Recruitment to date has been limited in number but with the focus on quality. Sandro Tonali is our eye-catching capture from AC Milan and is joined by Harvey Barnes from Leicester. Barring any hitches we’ll welcome Tino Livramento from Southampton too (stop press: no hitches reported). Antony Gordon has had time to settle into United and has had a very encouraging pre-season. To use a cliché, he’ll be like a new signing for us. The first team squad has been improved from twelve months ago and we should reflect how much better the likes of Botman, Guimarães and Isak will be after completing their first full seasons of Premier League football.

Howe has intimated he’s after another couple of players and the smart money is them at left-back and a right-sided centre half. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of players leaving United too. So there’s possibly a bit to happen before the end of the transfer window.

This is teed up to be a season unlike most we’ve had in recent decades. The first thing to say about it is supporters are looking forward to the new campaign beginning. That’s a statement of the obvious but it is worth reflecting upon because it is still a novelty.

TRUE FAITH – Live Event, The Stand, 10/Aug/23

There is tangible optimism about what we could do this season. Eddie Howe’s stock is incredibly high as is his team’s who have our confidence, respect, affection and support. You would probably have to go back to the days of Kevin Keegan’s first spell here as manager to compare the mood with what we’ve now got on the Black & White planet.

We all know there has been significant investment in the first team squad but only a fool would ignore the impact of Howe’s coaching on the likes of Schar, Joelinton, Longstaff, Almiron, Murphy and Wilson – players inherited from the former regime but now key parts of our future.

Creating some excitement also is the emergence of Elliot Anderson, Lewis Miley and Alex Murphy. All three academy lads are at various stages of their journey into the first team picture but will be aware of the standards they have to reach. They can see in Sean Longstaff however opportunities for those who deliver on the training pitch and a route from the academy to the first team.

Eddie Howe has increased his influence on the club in his time and he’s done that by delivering results. He’s also achieved it by improving the value of players he inherited and who many of us considered were finished. He has proven many of us completely wrong and saved United tens of millions in the process.

Howe is getting the players he wants to fit into a system he wants to play. Again, this hasn’t happened since the days of Kevin Keegan. Even Sir Bobby Robson wasn’t supported by United on recruitment in the way Howe is and we should recognise the emerging culture at the club of doing everything the correct way. Howe may be loved in the stands of SJP but he is clearly hugely respected in the boardroom too.

I really feel for those who can’t get into SJP for matches. The demand for tickets is off the scale and there is incessant discussion amongst supporters of increasing SJP capacity and/or relocation to a new stadium. I want United to play in front of huge home crowds as I believe it benefits the team but similarly I want as many as my fellow Mags to get the match-day experience.

United – A Members’ Club?

At some point United will have to assess what it is going to do because the club is growing and growing fast. I expect this is a subject of discussion amongst the hierarchy and a process will be underway to understand better the demand and respond to it.

But back to Saturday … aside from the team Howe will select there is huge anticipation at the first display Wor Flags will put on this season. I noticed there was a shout out for new volunteers so if you’re interested and you’re at the game – click here for the crack – Obviously as a bona fide fan led group which puts on the biggest and best displays in the country all of it needs to be paid for. I’m particularly intrigued to see what is organised for those Champions League nights but it all needs to be paid for – hoy in what you are comfortable with – donate here

As ever there will be a donation point at the back of the Gallowgate on Strawberry Place for the Newcastle United Fans Foodbank. Here’s the crack about donations whether you are at SJP or not – click here 

This is looking like it is going to be TF’s biggest season yet for the independent fan led coverage we’re going to be delivering.

If you want to join our writing team, drop us a line here – Our writers come in all shapes and sizes with varying levels of experience and different perspectives on the club – we all share a love of Newcastle United.

Our Pod team will be knocking out mountains of brilliant content this season and the best way to get at it is to become a Patreon – you do have to pay for that but it is remarkable value for money – subscribe here 

Souvenir Fanzine – Geordies In The Champions League!

Along with that we have a significantly boosted You Tube operation and I’d encourage you all to get subscribed quick snap – click here 

TF has one of its forums this week and Thursday at The Stand – there are handful of tickets remaining so get a hold of them here

And finally, there is a very small number of issues of our hard copy fanzine remaining – a souvenir for United’s Champions League qualification – click here – only £4 plus P+P and only available online with no in-shop sales.

We’ll have an appetiser courtesy of the new We Are Newcastle United docu-series kicking off on Friday night. I don’t know anyone who won’t be tuning into that. The trailers have looked brilliant.

But after all of that it’s all about Saturday night and promises to be something special. SJP will be in the mood and juiced up by a longer afternoon’s libations. Villa are no pushovers and they’ll come this time and be a far tougher prospect than they were last season. Let’s be honest they tore us apart at Villa Park last season under their excellent manager Unai Emery. We owe them for that.

But we are straining at the leash. This is a new adventure.

Howay United

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

Michael Martin, @TFMick1892