What a week! What a bloody, fantastic week!
Newcastle United met three very different challenges over the last week and overcame them all.
I think the tone was set for the last trio of fixtures in the manner in which Howe’s side set about grinding out a vital win over a handy Brentford at St James’ Park before heading to Italy for a blue ribbon fixture v AC Milan at the San Siro and emerging with a very credible point, clean sheet and a load of memories.
The trip to Bramall Lane fell neatly into the category of post-Champions League come down with the home side no doubt hoping to meet a Magpies side feeling physically and mentally drained after an exhausting contest in the humidity of northern Italy.
That forlorn hope was smashed to pieces by a rampant United that snapped The Blades in two to chalk up a record beating 0-8 away win with the distinction of a different scorer for every goal. We were still going for it at the FT whistle and my wish for the game to be wrapped up in the first hour before legs tired after the midweek efforts took its toll was misplaced.
I’ll forgive myself for underestimating this new and improved Newcastle United because I’ve spent so long with the old, nailed-on-to-disappoint variations of Newcastle United. This new version is taking some getting used to. I am not complaining.
Those three PL defeats to Man City, Liverpool and Brighton have been put to bed.
We can all smile at those who over-reacted to them and shake our heads at those who over-reacted to the over-reactions too. Keep calm and carry on might be the guiding principle with Eddie Howe’s team. Keeping quiet counsel doesn’t get you Likes, Clicks and all the other associated attention seeking garbage of this brave new digital world but it’s the best route all things considered.
Take a breath. It’s time to go again.
We now have three successive games at St James’ Park. Again, they are all completely different challenges that will test our squad and Eddie Howe’s ability to use it.
We couldn’t have got a much greater challenge than Man City at SJP on Wednesday night. Pep Guardiola’s side is the dominant force in European football and although he may rotate his side for our League Cup tie, the starting eleven to cross the white line will be of the highest quality.
We will have our work cut out to progress in the competition. The last time we beat City was in the League Cup at The Etihad but we are going to need everything we’ve got to repeat that feat in front of a packed SJP.
By the way – B&W scarves need to be taken for those going to the match to accompany the display Wor Flags have on the boil this week.
We may see some heavy rotation from Howe’s side too. I’m not going to suggest to Eddie Howe who should be in his side as he knows better than any of us. But I’m curious to see Lewis Hall, Tino Livramento start a game and this might be a contest to see Sandro Tonali start in the middle of the park with Bruno getting a rest with Burn and Trippier – there are options for Elliot Anderson as well as Jacob Murphy and possibly even Lewis Miley.
I suspect Longstaff’s lungs might get some respite but we don’t have any real detail on Joelinton’s return to fitness but we do know Joe Willock won’t be available until after the next international break.
Dependent upon how the game is going we might also see Jamaal Lascelles enter the fray too.
The quality of the opposition might be a bit much to re-introduce Emil Krafth, Javier Manquillo, Paul Dummett and Matt Ritchie but they could benefit from minutes and having a bit of match sharpness.
Not that I’m suggesting we treat this game like a training match. This competition is likely our best opportunity to win a trophy and although I hear all of the rational arguments of qualifying for the Champions League as the priority, I yearn for the sight of a Newcastle United captain hoisting a cup aloft. I can think of no better player to do it than Kieran Trippier – one of the finest I’ve seen in a B&W shirt in the 50-odd years I’ve been clicking through SJP’s turnstiles.
But players are paid to play and although I hear the stuff about certain characters being good in the dressing room (c) there has to be more than being a good trainer and canny lad to pick up all of that money. Get them in a pair of boots and on the green stuff is my opinion – Eddie Howe’s counts for rather more it doesn’t need me to say.
Then we have Burnley on Saturday. The expectation is we’ll beat them. It should be the case we win but this is the Premier League and this is three games in a week and our players are human.
There is currently a debate underway about the quality of promoted sides this season and I’ve seen some knee-jerk reactions to the lack of an impression Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton have made so far. But it is premature given how young the season is and how well promoted clubs did last time – Forest, Bournemouth and Fulham all stopped up relatively comfortably.
Burnley will be no pushover and I suspect we will have to be patient. I’d not be surprised if we had another contest such as we had with Brentford if Kompany changes his game plan and plays to frustrate us – as Palace, Bournemouth and others did last season to pick up points.
Then a week on Wednesday, we have another spectacular night as St James’ Park hosts its first Champions League game in two decades against glamour French side PSG. There is talk of a doubt Kylian Mbappe might have picked up an injury so may miss the trip to Gallowgate. That may also be kidology.
Personally, I want to see Mbappe at SJP even though we’d likely have more chance without him in the PSG side. This is what the Champions League is all about though it’s meaningless really what this daydreamer thinks or otherwise. I’d have liked to have seen Messi and Neymar grace the Gallowgate turf too but this is twelve months late for them.
Mbappe or not this is going to be a superb occasion for us at our grand old home. The memories of this game will cascade down the ages and spoken about for decades to come.
As we saw in the San Siro, AC Milan’s fans put on a spectacular tifo display last Tuesday and if you are a sad bastard as I am, you’ll have clocked what supporters’ groups around Europe have arranged in the last week and it is time for us to step up too.
We are so fortunate to have Wor Flags who consistently put on displays that are the envy of the country. Alex Hurst and I had a role establishing Gallowgate Flags (the precursor to Wor Flags) but I have no problem in acknowledging the whole thing has subsequently moved onto another level post-takeover.
Wor Flags does what it does on the back of the donations supporters put into their fund. I make a modest monthly donation myself which is no big deal but I’d encourage you all to do likewise. I understand the club has offered to part fund displays but that was rightly declined (though well-intentioned) because this thing of ours belongs to us.
It can’t be controlled by the club and it has to be us otherwise its next stop foam hands, plastic flags and clappers.
Donate what you feel comfortable with – click here
There’s a lot of transfer bullshit on social media and some of it beyond laughable but if there’s one man who can be relied upon then it is Fabrizio Romano – click here
The doyen of football transfers broke the news on Saturday gone Bruno Guimarães is close to agreeing a contract that will tie him to the club until 2028 which mean his peak years will be with us hopefully.
There is also news there is a release clause of £100m within Bruno’s new contract which obviously protects United and were the player and club to part company, that is a load of dough going into our bank account to sugar coat and fund replacements etc.
I have seen some negative response to this but frankly if Bruno wanted to leave then he’d run his contract down and leave on a free. Signing this new contract is good for all parties.
I’ve no doubt there have been efforts to tap Bruno over the last few months and suitors will likely have been clubs which up until Oct ’21 could tempt our lads without any difficulty. They have failed.
It says everything about the transformation at United that a supremely talented player like Guimarães at his age sees his future here. Doubtless Bruno has developed a massive affection to Newcastle United and the city but he wants to stay here so he can fulfil his own talent and ambitions.
I’m part of a generation scarred by the departures of local talent down the years (Waddle, Beardsley and Gascoigne) who (rightly) didn’t feel they could achieve what they wanted with their home town club. Those departures were jarring. That a young, world-class Brazilian international observes a Newcastle United bursting at the seams with ambition and straining at the leash says everything about where we are at as we approach two years post-takeover.
We all saw in the celebrations at Bramall Lane in front of the travelling contingent, Bruno making his emotions plain. We can expect news soon Guimarães will sign the new contract and be part of the club’s journey over the next few seasons.
This is brilliant news.
If there was one cloud on the United blue-sky over the last week it was the attack in Milan on a small group of Mags by a much larger pack of thugs carrying weapons.
Supporter Eddie McKay was taken to hospital in Milan but was well enough to return home to his family on the day of the game. Everyone at TF wishes Eddie and the lads with him all of the best and hopes the Italian Police bring the attackers to justice.
United’s support in Milan was very well received by the locals and there were lots of accounts of Milanista and Mags mixing very well and no trouble between them. The cowardly attack on Eddie and company is not representative of Milan fans and my hope is for Italian fans to be warmly welcomed to our city and that goes for PSG and Dortmund visitors too.
We have an opportunity to show the whole of Europe what Geordie passion is during those games but before KO my hope is for the city to throw open its doors and demonstrate our famous hospitality too.
Have a great week – these are the days.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, @TFMick1892