But 2021 was punctuated by some incredible moments of skill from Allan Saint-Maximin.
And the winger was named by the North East Football Writers’ Association (NEFWA) as its player of the year for his efforts on the pitch last year.
Saint-Maximin was unable to attend last night’s NEFWA annual dinner at Ramside Hall, so co-owner Amanda Staveley, attending with husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi after watching Newcastle United Women’s 6-2 win over Leeds United, accepted the award on his behalf.
Staveley – who led the consortium which bought the club late last year in a £305million deal – spoke on stage to BBC 5 Live’s Ian Dennis about Saint-Maximin, head coach Eddie Howe’s impact at the 14th-placed club, the fitness of the squad earlier this season and their plans for the future.
The story so far…
“It’s just been the most extraordinary journey. We’ve had the most extraordinary welcome from the most fantastic people in the North East. We visited the club four years ago fell in love. Then we just said we were determined to make sure that we’d get there.
“Relegation battles, as we all know, are really tough, and we were determined not to be relegated. Every game matters. We’ve got a long way to go. We mustn’t take our eye off the ball. We’re very proud of the team and the fans that have been so incredibly supportive.”
Eddie Howe’s impact…
“He’s just been extraordinary. You’ve got to remember that when he took over, the team wasn’t fit. We had one of the big impacts in Covid in closed stadiums, that buzz in playing in front of a live audience, it really does matter. I think football had taken such a battering. I saw every game get better and better.
“I know Mehrdad and I, the first day we walked into the dressing room with the lads, we said ‘look, this is a difficult time, but we know the plan we’ve got’. And everybody’s worked so hard. It’s not always about new signings, it’s the whole team that’s made it happen.”
“It really feels now we’ve got proper, decent momentum, but with two big games ahead of us, with Covid (postponements) we’ve got a very tight timetable, Southampton Thursday. It (the Brighton game) was extraordinary. I’m just very proud and pleased.”
Plans for the future…
“I think when we came into the club, we couldn’t do our job without the massive support of the PIF (Public Investment Fund). So we’re very lucky to have the great investors, the great shareholders, of PIF and the Reuben family. We were determined in the transfer window, we were very focused on what we needed to do, what we had to achieve to not get relegated.
“We have to put a huge amount of infrastructure (into the club). We saw the girls (against Leeds), they were brilliant. We’ve got a long way to go in terms of getting the right training facilities, Academy, investment. But, luckily, we’ve got the best club. It’s just amazing.”
“Allan so wanted to be here, and so did Eddie. They’re working so hard at the moment, they’re very, very focused. He’s actually having to go abroad. It’s great. I’m delighted to take this (award).”