Cast your mind back to the 2016-17 season, a season that saw Newcastle United playing their football in the second tier of the country’s professional football pyramid. As devastated as we all were, experiencing the sting of relegation the previous campaign, this season for many Mags was an enjoyable one. We were the big scalp of the league, and quite rightly won the league and went up as Champions under the brilliant Rafa Benitez (remember him?) as we returned to the Premier League with a sense of hope.

There was another side who came up with us that season, and it was the one we just pipped to the title, Brighton & Hove Albion, managed by then former Newcastle United manager, and all around nice guy Chris Hughton. Since that point, both the Magpies and the Seagulls have managed to stay in the top flight, but that’s where the similarities end. Brighton could see that their manager was struggling, and that what they had in place just wasn’t sustainable, so they made a change, and brought in a manager relatively inexperienced in the top flight, and a man who had enjoyed more success abroad, than domestically. That man was Graham Potter.

For those who don’t know, Potter really made his name in Swedish football with Östersund. Arriving in 2011, he spent 7 years transforming the minnows from fourth tier also rans, to a top 5 finish in Sweden’s top division , moving on to Swansea in 2018 with an impressive 51% win ratio. Potter had a relatively good first season at the Swans, continuing the brand of good football they had become accustomed to, but sadly he couldn’t get them promoted and they finished the season in 10th place. But the young manager had caught the attention of Premier League eyes, and Brighton came calling for his services in May 2019.

In his first season he led the Seagulls to a 15th place finish, developing a much more expansive and controlled style of play that Hughton had seemingly lost his way with beforehand. With a relatively youthful side, Potter seemed to be getting more out of the players than say an experienced manager would, despite having less than 900 games under his belt like others boast  (cough cough). The second season saw Brighton in and around the relegation fight for a bit, but the football they were playing was way better than their league position illustrated, and you could see the plan was just starting to knit together. With them seemingly just a goal scorer away from making things really click into gear.

This season, it seems to have done just that, with some clear focused coaching on the training pitch, Neal Maupay has seemingly turned into that player, saving Potter a few quid in the transfer market for sure. During his time in the Amex stadium hotseat, he’s managed to bring in some great young players with bags of potential in the likes of Tariq Lamptey from Chelsea, who looks like he could be the latest off the England superstar right back conveyor belt. Coupled with the shrewd purchase of Yves Bissouma, who looks one of the best midfielders outside the top 8 sides, with bags of energy, and quality to match.

Throw in a couple of experienced stars, who still have quality to offer in the shape of Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck, and you have to applaud the approach from both Potter and the Brighton board for backing their manager. I know what you’re thinking, “What’s this got to do with Newcastle United?” Well, I’m getting there.

Like Brighton, we also changed manager, but unlike Brighton, we didn’t change manager because of performances, we changed manager because of principles, in terms of he had some, and our board didn’t.

So, rather than evolve and look at a younger more progressive coach in the mould of a Graham Potter, we went back to Jurassic Park and got a fossil in the shape of Steve Bruce. We all know how that’s turned out. Yes, Bruce may have boasted better league finishes than Brighton (Oh he loves the accumulation of those points) but in terms of the style of play, and chances created, Potter and his Brighton side are head and shoulders above Newcastle. xG may not be for everyone, but if you look at Brighton’s xG difference this season and last in comparison to ours, it’s quite stark.

As you can see from the stats slide below (Put together by my mate @faz1981 from @SRPblog) both last season, and this, it clearly highlights the progress made by Potter, by creating plenty of chances at the other end, which now look to be getting taken, to having a relatively well balanced defence, resulting in a positive goal difference and a much more enjoyable style of play.

As Norman Riley suggested when sitting chatting to Neville and Carragher over a bottle of Broon, it may be time for a you get progressive coach to take the reins at St James’ Park, and actually create an identity, and style of play. One that doesn’t just involve backs to the wall defending, and giving it to Saint-Maximin and hoping for the best. Potter is living proof that a change can do you good, and as I’ve said in one of my previous TF pieces, we shouldn’t just accept that yet another mediocre, jumpers for goalposts manager should be our next choice.

No more Pardews, Allardyce’s, or Pulis’s! Why don’t we go in a different direction? It could be everything we needed, but never had the courage to do it, well under this regime. Remember the last time we had a young progressive manager a chance? He ended up saving us from football extinction, and gave us some of the best football years we’ve ever experienced, so you never know, our next Keegan could be out there just waiting for the call.

Newcastle United is still a huge football club, and one that deserves better than what we’re seeing on the pitch right now, so let’s roll the dice, bin off this dinosaur, and start again under a young, hungry, ambitious coach, one who wants to implement his ideas, and modern style of coaching on the squad, like Graham Potter has, and I’d wager we’d enjoy watching our side play a hell of lot better than we do now.

Chris Currie – @wig82