The arrival of Eddie Howe brought many things to Tyneside. Hope, optimism, ambition, a hard-working driven set of coaches, and a new and improved Joelinton. Most Newcastle fans would agree they hadn’t heard much of the clubs’ new record signing when he was unveiled at St James’ Park alongside a beaming Steve Bruce. On the face of it, the 6ft 1, 22-year-old Brazilian looked the part. But a quick look at his record in Germany and we knew he wasn’t going to be the focal point and goal scorer his squad number suggested.

Then there was the price tag – a reported £40 million. Astounding based on the owners previous 12 years at the helm. Nearly doubling the fee paid the January before for Miguel Almiron. Big things were expected on the pitch – they did not materialise. Initially played as an out an out number 9 he got off to a decent start scoring the winner away to Spurs in late August. That would be the only swallow of the summer. The attacking threat of the whole 11 was never what you’d call, cutting edge.

But our new number 9 was slow, easily knocked off the ball and looked genuinely disinterested. As the season went on, he struggled to make an impact. His next goal wasn’t until January, again Rochdale in a 4-1 FA cup replay win.

As lockdown loomed on the country in March 2020 Joelinton was moved out wide with Dwight Gayle given the number 9 role. I remember telling a mate after the game, “Joelinton looked less rubbish out wide”. Not the praise you expect for a club’s record signing. Although he did look more comfortable out there, better on the ball and more at home. He still displayed his sluggish nature though. Nowhere near the far post when balls were crossed in. No desire to get into the box. The fans were losing patience. Luckily for Joelinton Boris then dropped the bomb and fans would not be back into St James for over 3 months. Project re-start saw a resurgent Newcastle dismiss Sheffield United in the clubs first home game back with fans. Joelinton netting a tap in after the Yorkshire side had been reduced to ten men. His first season read 38 games 2 goals

A new era dawned in October 2021. The previously named ‘tyre kicker’ Amanda Stavely, along with the Rueben Brother and the Saudi owned PIF group, came to save the club from 14 years of nothingness under Mike Ashley. A deal described by one radio station as “Deader than a dead thing from dead land”. Steve Bruce was duly given the Spanish archer and after weeks of diligent searching Eddie Howe was given the task of saving Newcastle and taking the club forward. Regardless of the rest of the countries obsession with him previously being relegated with Bournemouth, optimism engulfed the Northeast.

On a cold dark November morning a vehicle pulled into Darsley Park, the new management team were raring to go, and the new regime was in full flow. The international break gave Howe time to drill his philosophy into the squad, as well as test their fitness.

A positive Covid 19 test resulted in Howe watching his first game from a Newcastle hotel room. Despite his absence his team looked a different animal. First to the loose balls, desire, effort, and a distinct improvement in fitness. A goal from Joelinton capped a man of the match performance leaving fans wondering where this player has been for 2 years! An away trip to Arsenal was tough, but again playing wide in a 3 up top he displayed effort and ability that was unrecognisable during the Bruce reign

Norwich at home was billed as a must win. A rare thing in November but it showed the plight of the club. A positive start was halted due to a moment of madness by Ciaran Clark try to rectify his mistake and bringing down Teemu Pukki. The Finn was through on goal and Clark, preventing a goalscoring opportunity, was sent for an early bath. Howe needed to reshuffle. Off came Ryan Fraser replaced by Fede Fernandez for a popular return. Instead of going for a traditional 4-4-, Howe opted for a 3-man midfield leaving Saint Maxamin and Callum Wilson up top to maintain a threat. This left our record signing striker as the right hand of a 3 in midfield. He was truly a colossus.

The 10 men immediately raced forward as the ball rolled to Joelinton he whistled a rocket just over Tim Kruls bar. The crowd went wild, we knew it was game on. The visitors enjoyed most of the possession but the screen in front of the defence by Joelinton, Willock, and a rejuvenated Shelvey would have made the most stubborn Italian coach proud. Joelinton pressed harried, shielded the ball using his vast frame, and showed the cuteness to go down under a challenge when pressure needed relieving.

From being the butt of most jokes, Joelinton has transformed himself into a crowd favourite. Showing outstanding footwork, an appreciation for the game, and the strength and fitness to carry those out for the full 90 minutes is incredible. Testament to the player that was always in there!!

ANDY HALL