When Newcastle United last lined up to face Tottenham, the Magpies were a different football club entirely. Bursting with expectation and anticipation, St. James’ Park was the loudest it had been in years as the new owners were unveiled to the masses for the first time.
The £ 300m Saudi takeover had been confirmed just a few days earlier to huge fanfare, with supporters lining the streets with their cans of choice celebrating the beginning of a new era.
Fast forward six months and on the whole it has been a relatively smooth start for the new regime. The ethical dilemmas of the takeover still rear their head regularly but in footballing terms, it has been a positive start for the new ownership.
Eddie Howe, appointed less than one month after the regime change, has transformed the club’s fortunes on the pitch with a nine-point buffer between Newcastle and the relegation zone. But bigger changes have been made since the 3-2 defeat to Tottenham in October.
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A proper football club again
Results on the pitch and signings in January are the obvious signs that the takeover has revitalized the football club and the region as a whole. But Newcastle fans are also thankful for the subtle changes off the pitch.
Just days before the Spurs clash, Amanda Staveley, her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Jamie Reuben gathered St. James’ Park staff to discuss their aims for the future. It fired the starting gun of what would be a full-scale revamp of how the football club would operate.
Since the Tottenham clash in October last year, the new owners have given more media interviews than Mike Ashley did in his entire 14-year tenure, made huge donations to the NUFC Fans’ Foodbank, reached out to exiled Toon legends, proposed plans to move Alan Shearer’s statue onto club land and returned NINE bar to its rightful name.
Back to matters on the pitch. When Newcastle welcomed Tottenham to the north east in October, there was a real danger of another stint in the Championship – even with the takeover done and dusted. The Magpies were languishing in 19th-place, with only Norwich keeping them off the bottom of the table.
The first win of the season wouldn’t arrive until the 1-0 win at Burnley in early December, with the second only coming on January 22nd against Leeds.
But ahead of this weekend’s clash in the capital, Howe’s side are nine points clear of the drop zone with seven victories to their name. With three teams separating them and Watford in 18th, another couple of wins should suffice in keeping them in the top flight for next season.
Transfer culture change
With a monumental takeover such as the one Newcastle have enjoyed, it is par for the course that superstar signings will follow.
It is without question that Dan Burn, Chris Wood and Matt Targett were all welcome additions in January – but it is the arrivals of Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes that highlight the dramatic culture change.
Attracting players of that ilk was unheard of before the takeover and hasn’t been seen on Tyneside since the days of Alan Shearer and Sir Bobby Robson. If that is what the ownership can muster in their first transfer window, with the club languishing at the bottom of the table, imagine the names they could persuade to join in the summer once survival is ensured.
Rewind back to the 3-2 Tottenham defeat in October, the starting XI is looking drastically different these days. Karl Darlow was in between the sticks for the home side that day, with Martin Dubravka still recovering from injury.
Ciaran Clark was present in the heart of the defense and was partially at fault for the Spurs opener in front of the Gallowgate. Sean Longstaff was his usual energetic self in the middle of the park, with Matt Ritchie fizzing up and down the left flank.
However, that quartet are now all facing uncertain futures at the club after failing to hold down places in Howe’s new-look side.