One in the books, 37 more to go. Newcastle kicked off the season doing what everybody expected them to do and getting a victory against newly promoted side Nottingham Forest. A few—if anyone—doubted the team’s chances before the game and by the 15th minute those doubters were probably closer to zero. Forest never posed a threat as they were clearly outmatched, Newcastle bagged their three first points of the year, and it was all rosy inside and around St James’ Park on a very sunny Saturday.
Here are your Top-3 players of Match Day 1, along with some quotes from the very own protagonists of the weekend.
The national consensus among all media members was the same when the final whistle was blown after the 90 minutes played at SJP: Bruno was, once more, very legit. Bruno had a scorching hot tenure with the Magpies after getting signed from Lyon last season and he stayed hot to kick this year off. Only Kieran Trippier (66) got remotely close to attempting as many passes as the 72 Bruno went for yesterday. Not only that but the Brazilian also completed 64—yes, more completions than the attempted passes by all other individual 21 starters with the exception of Tripps. Kid Guim also won 12 of the 18 duels he challenged the opposition for on Saturday over his 89 minutes of playing time, intercepted one pass, completed three tackles, and never got dribbled past. Not bad for a day-one start.
Whoever ended up starting on the center of the defensive line yesterday was going to get a closer-than-average look because of the abundance of resources at the position and the fact that one of them—Sven Botman—is also the most expensive and freshest addition to it and the club as a whole. Schar manned the CB along with Dan Burn, both were great at it, and no one complained about the selection. Who could, actually? Not only did Schar clear four balls (Burn got five clearances, by the way) but he also blocked a couple of shots (one of them clearly the best chance from Nottingham Forest), intercepted three passes, tackled a couple of opponents, and allowed no dribbles at all past his warm body. Oh, did I mention he became the 2022-23 season-opening goalscorer for the Magpies? Just a little detail that slipped through the cracks, I guess.
I could have chosen multiple and very different players for the Bronze Seahorse, but I wanted to highlight ASM because yesterday was one of those days in which he clearly know what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. And you’d be very wrong if you think he didn’t do all of that and then some. Saint-Maximin took fewer than five minutes to put on a dribbling show and to start driving Forest Lads mad. But everything he did had a purpose and allowed Newcastle to advance toward the team’s ultimate goal: winning football games. He carried the squad up the pitch, provided sparky moments, completed the third-highest percentage of passes among Magpies’ midfielders and forwards, and never got angry or frustrated with himself as has often been the case in the past. As with Wilson (with injuries being the malady in his case), Newcastle has a very legitimate player starting on the wing but that’s assuming he can stay on top of his game and not gamble or commit dumb actions and mistakes. That’s—for now at least—not guaranteed, but if ASM keeps playing as he did for the first 89 minutes of the year, Newcastle should be in for a treat.
In Their Own Words
Pulling some quotes dropped after the game, the first one of the new season and the first one on St James Park by extension.
NUFC manager Eddie Howe wanted to remember everybody that old-time’s glory is no more:
“I’m very proud of the team for having such a brilliant run towards the end of the season but [that] is gone and we can’t look back to that time”
“You start afresh, you start level with everybody else and we have to earn everything that comes from now”
“We can try and harness the good things from it but we have to earn the right again”
Howe had words for the Geordie faithful, too, as he challenged the fans to give it all for the club as the lads will be leaving everything on the pitch every weekend:
“We have to get the supporters on our side with our energy and our enthusiasm and our work-rate so we have to earn all that trust again and I back the players to do it”
The man of the match after scoring the—most probably—goal of the weekend, Fabian Schar, also shared some words with the media right after the final whistle:
“The fans expect a lot from us this season, it’s electric when you are here and you just want to give them something to cheer”
“We have a strong team, a lot of quality but we know difficult the Premier League is as well”
“We wanted to start the season well but we have to focus on the next game and see what happens.”
Also, regarding his banger of a score:
“As soon as I hit the ball, I thought I hit it quite well”
“It is always great to score in front of the home fans”
You are damn right, Fab, you’re damn right. The defender understood the situation Newcastle was finding itself into and took matters personally:
“Over the 90 minutes we played some great football – the goals didn’t come in the first half but we dominated possession and had a lot of chances”
“We had a lot of chances and didn’t score so it was an important goal”
Obviously, there were questions thrown at Howe related to the Magpies' activity in the transfer market and their efforts to land a forward that bolsters the team’s offense.
“I’m not aware that anything has changed on that front, and I don’t anticipate that to be the case because everyone has been concentrating on the games, and rightly so”
In the improbable event of not signing any new player to the first-team squad, Howe maintained a clear position when it comes to his attitude regarding the currently available group of players.
“I don’t think today changes anything from my view. My squad is an excellent squad of players”
At the end of the day, he just waved the white flag.
“I love the individuals we have, but I’d like to add some more quality to that if possible.”
On to play Brighton away at Falmer Stadium next Saturday.
Howay the Lads!