It’s finally here, folks.
After weeks of suffering trying to escape the media rumor mill. After weeks of dealing with Reddit whisper threads. After weeks of dealing with content-no-content. After all of that, actual, real football has finally arrived at Newcastle’s shores and it’s Coming Home.
Freshly promoted Nottingham Forest—last season’s fourth-best team in the Championship, getting the promo via play-offs—is visiting St James Park for the first time in a few years to kick their EPL return season off. The lads from Nottinghamshire are not new to top-flight football and relevancy—peep those two stars above their crest; if you know you know—but it’s been ages since the last time they were at the peak of their talents, let alone contending for titles.
As much as Forest would love to get back to those triumphant European nights, Newcastle would love to experience them for the first time ever. Slowly but surely, folks. Patience first. After throwing away the first half of last year’s Premier League season and until the takeover was completed and the club got into this calendar year things didn’t look very good for the Magpies. After that, though, a magnificent run of results saw Newcastle avoid relegation and finish 11th in the table, just seven points shy of qualifying for the Europa Conference League and only nine from Europa League football options. That’s the aim this season, and it all starts this weekend at home. Can’t ask for more.
Forest could only finish fourth in the Championship (no joke, given the murderously balanced level of all participants down there) but that was enough for them to gain the right to participate in the promotion play-offs. Fulham and Bournemouth got the first couple of places and Nott. Forest saw off Sheffield United first and Huddersfield in the final to snatch that final promotional place and get into this season’s Premier League crop of teams.
Funnily enough, Forest reached a point in the FA Cup that Newcastle could only dream of, ultimately falling 0-1 to Liverpool by late March. Dangerous fellas, these ones.
It hasn’t been the brightest of preseason for the gentlemen based on Notts, as they can only claim two victories in seven matches and one in the past five games they’ve played. That, of course, contrasts highly with the results the Magpies have accrued in their summer tour—two defeats sandwiched between four victories making for a two-and-two couple of bread slices.
Mauling Gateshead is not going to scare anyone but neither is defeating Hertha Berlin if you know what I’m saying. It’s been repeated to death that Newcastle is entering the 2022-23 season after putting together a very shaky and repeatable second-half of results last year. Unsustainable, they call it.
The truth is, Newcastle was (re)born precisely for that, so they better keep it up. When the new Saudi-backed ownership to the reins of the club in October the only realistic expectation was to reach salvation. Now, though, the very own board is talking loudly of reaching a place granting continental football arrives in Tyneside as soon as we reach the fall of 2023. A year to go, that is.
We’ll see how that plays out, but you gotta put your money where you put your mouth. And the new owners—Financial Fair Play allowing—are pretty much doing that on a reasonable basis and without losing their heads, something that was one of the main faithful concerns.
The transfer list isn’t gaudy no matter how you look at it. The three main arrivals include Matt Targett, whose half-season loan deal from Villa was turned into a full-time, long-term deal with the Magpies. The other two are a goalie in England international Nick Pope and a defender in Netherlands soon-to-be-capped-youngster Sven Botman. Nothing flashy, if you will, tho the club is still looking for forward-line reinforcements.
Forest avoided massive overspending and overselling on equal terms, but they landed one of Newcastle’s low-profile targets in free agent and former Man. Utd. midfielder Jesse Lingard. Feels like a revenge game, this one, even though we don’t even (and won’t ever) know if Jesse was entertaining the Magpies' offers or if Newcastle actually chased him at all. Same with GK Dean Henderson, who also seemed to be this close to man the SJP goals but ultimately got leaned to the men rising from underearth.
Two days to go... ⏳— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) August 4, 2022
Howay the Lads! pic.twitter.com/MeuMzktaoy
We’re not even past the first game of the season but we can’t be more exciting. Peep at the schedule in the tweet above, and you’ll see why. Forest and Brighton might help Newcastle arrive at their Aug. 21 game against Man. City at the top of the table with six points. Wolves should be beatable. The clashes against the top two teams in last year’s EPL are packed in a 10-day window taking place in the first month of the season.
Seriously, brothers and sisters, this can’t get to a flashier start so let’s get it going asap.
The Guardian’s best guess at the Starting XIs from the Geordie Lads and the Tricky Trees, who are both expected to go all-in!
- Not Available: Jonjo Shelvey (hamstring), Javier Manquillo (groin), Federico Fernandez (calf), Jamal Lewis (calf)
- No doubt about who the man behind the bars will be for most of the season unless there is something very wrong with Nick Pope. Howe wanted a goalie, Newcastle bought his first-choice keeper in Burnley’s Pope, and that alone is more than enough to have the newcomer holding tight onto the starting no. 1 at least for the time being. Dubravka has made the rumor mill of late with a possible connection to Leicester in the event of a Maddison deal, so that shows you how much of a backup he’s turned into entering the new campaign.
- The defensive line isn’t as clear as it might seem, but that’s actually a good problem for Newcastle as the addition of Botman and thus an abundance of riches is what is causing the conundrum. The “can’t pair two left-legged CB” narrative has been discussed to death all summer and it’s still the predominant and consensus option, so that’d mean Botman and Schär would be the ones starting on Saturday. Sucks for Dan Burn, who played to MVP levels after landing on Tyneside, but Botman must play given his superior summer and the fact that the competition this weekend can be weaker.
- The midfield trio is probably the most interesting thing for Howe to spend a good bunch of time thinking about and tinkering with. With Shelvey out (I expect him to command tons of minutes once available as a veteran staple of the club) the options are multiple when it comes to the third man to deploy next to Joelinton and Bruno. Longstaff should be leading the race because he’s a steady presence and can do a little bit of everything without really excelling at anything. Willock is the mystery man and comes with a bit more offensive profile, which might actually work against a team like Notts and should also mix well with a double/one-and-a-half pivot scheme in the midfield. Elliot Anderson feels like a long-shot option to start, but I fully expect to watch him play a few minutes in the second half and I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t enter the pitch.
- No doubts about the front three. ASM is going nowhere, Almirón is the Blue Collar GOAT with sprinkles of excellence, and Wilson is the only striker in St James Park worth using until someone is bought before the transfer market closes come September.
When and Where’s flowin’
- Date: Saturday, August 6
- Time: 10:00 am ET, 3:00 pm UK
- Location: St James’ Park, Newcastle
- TV: BBC Radio Live 5 (UK), Peacock (USA), fuboTV (Canada)
For all your international watching needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com.
How’s it goin’
Coming Home, Crystal Ball: Newcastle 3-1 Nott. Forest
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Howay the Lads!