Brighton (a) was the nadir of our season so far. It seems out of synch to mention that game on the back of a run of results – three successive PL wins, a draw away in the Champions League and knocking the Champions of Europe out of the League Cup but it did serve as a reminder that if Newcastle United departs from its template – intensity is our identity, then we come unstuck.
We have recaptured the bite we had for most of last season and as a result we go into our first Champions League at St James’ Park on Wednesday night on a bounce. Yes, we have a sick-bay that includes Sven Botman, Joelinton, Harvey Barnes and possibly Callum Wilson but I’ll remind everyone that when we faced Barcelona back in ’97 we did so without Alan Shearer. Injuries are part and parcel of football and whilst we’d all love to have a full squad to choose from, that’s never going to be the case.
Now is the time for another hero to light up Gallowgate as Tino Asprilla did twenty-six years ago.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man!
This game on Wednesday night is a mouth-watering prospect. It is just reward to all of you reading this who’ve supported our club year after year and never lost faith with just what Newcastle United could and should be. I’m particularly delighted for younger supporters who are going to see their club compete in elite European football for the first time at SJP and see Eddie Howe’s team write another chapter in our proud European story.
This is a great night up and coming for all of the players for lots of different reasons.
I see Sean Longstaff play a transformative role in our midfield with his lung-bursting efforts and wonder how close he was to having his career put through the shredder by the half-arsed coaching of Steve Bruce. Now here he is fresh from his Champions League debut in the San Siro ready to cross the white line for the club of his family and community in front of what will be a baying, febrile crowd of fellow Geordies.
There will be Dan Burn who sat in the stands at SJP with his family two decades ago as a supporter watching Sir Bobby Robson’s men take on Europe’s finest and dreaming.
There are so many other stories – Jamal Lascelles, Fabian Schar, Miguel Almiron, Joelinton, Jacob Murphy and Callum Wilson who were part of a squad so shorn of direction and fitness many supporters who believed they had to be moved on as we faced relegation. How those lads have been reborn under Howe’s tutelage.
Then of course there will be the presence of Bruno Guimarães and Kieran Tripper who joined United in January 2022. In Trippier’s case he left the upper echelons of La Liga and Atletico Madrid for a pay-cut and no relegation clause because he saw Newcastle United’s massive potential. Guimarães also came in on the ground-floor too. No relegation clause either.
Their faith will be repaid when the Champions League music booms around St James’ Park and we line up against a Parisian side which harbour ambitions to win the competition. It’s unknown as to his fitness but for one, I hope Kylian Mbappe, the best player in the world steps out in front of our crowd. These are the moments that create our Newcastle United story.
Can we beat PSG?
We absolutely can. We have the players, the talent, the energy, appetite and the crowd which I have no doubt will be at its ferocious, visceral best.
We also have the manager. Eddie Howe is doing everything right. He’d be a nightmare to play poker against. He gives nothing away. He will have prepared his players with painstaking detail. In the run up to the game he will be ice cold, he will not run off at the mouth and he will exude quiet authority and although the players will have all of the passion and will to win we recognise, we won’t be overly emotional – we are here to compete. We belong in this competition. We have earned the right.
Newcastle United will distinguish the competition. It is my hope PSG’s fans find a welcome on the banks of the Tyne – in the pubs and streets of our city to spread the word across the continent of Geordie warmth and hospitality.
In the stands St James’ Park will be electrified. This is the biggest moment so far for Wor Flags – we have all seen the tifo of the San Siro and others – this is where we show we are a bona fide Champions League club that can energise the biggest club competition in the world.
It was a great week last week. There was something of the pantomime in our 8-0 mauling of Sheffield United at Bramall Lane but the team was relentless, ruthless and full of energy, making a mockery of suggestions we’d be exhausted on the back of our trip to Italy. Then came Man City at home in the League Cup where we were worthy winners. I’ve seen the usual suspects seek to diminish that result, suggesting Guardiola wasn’t bothered about the competition. That’s a weird take given Man City won the competition in 2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20, and 2020–21.
There was an eye-catching performance from Tino Livramento at right-back whilst the minutes Lewis Hall and Lewis Miley gained against elite competition will have provided massive learning credits for them. Likewise Elliot Anderson who’s fitness and appetite is becoming more evident. The Geordie Maradona is looking more the part every game he plays.
All eyes will be on PSG this Wednesday night but we know Howe and his team will have been planning for West Ham (a) this Sunday coming too.
We have less time between fixtures as we did for Milan and Sheffield United but in the credit column we don’t have the associated travelling and humidity to deal with.
West Ham is a form team and doubtless will be still sore after the hiding we gave them on their own patch last season. It represents another test for United but should we pass it then we can go into a now welcome international break in good heart ready to work on those bumps and bruises in the squad before we come back and go again.
This is a great time to support Newcastle United.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, TFMick1892