Eddie Howe may have found the player to take Newcastle United to the next level
We all know that you should never read too much into pre-season. But it’s hard not to get excited about Sven Botman.
Newcastle fans have been waiting all year to see Botman finally don the famous black and white shirt. And on a mild Friday afternoon in Austria, it finally happened.
It was a game you would expect Newcastle to win comfortably against German third-tier opposition in 1860 Munich – yet almost exactly a year ago United were beaten 1-0 away to National League North side York City.
How times have changed.
Botman has spent the week training with his new teammates in the state-of-the-art facility at the Hotel Gut Brandlhof near Saalfelden.
The preparations culminated in a match in the picturesque Saalfelden Arena as Eddie Howe named his squad for the first of two pre-season friendlies in Austria.
Botman was named on the bench as Howe opted to line-up with the centre-back partnership of Dan Burn and Jamaal Lascelles, a duo who had only started together four times in the Premier League.
After a goalless first-half, a shaky Lascelles made way for Botman, who was quick to impose himself on the game.
Despite being a left-footed centre-back, Botman was initially deployed on the right side in an ‘inverted’ role with Burn remaining on the left.
Within minutes of his introduction, the 22-year-old had already got his foot on the ball and demonstrated his quality at playing it out from the back with both feet.
Defence cutting balls and incisive switches of play were made to look easy by the ‘lean as a cat’ defender as he instantly looked at home in Newcastle’s back four.
He also started the attack that led to Newcastle’s opening goal scored by Joe Willock.
Following Fabian Schar’s introduction, Botman switched over to his more natural left side. Despite his tender age and new arrival status, he was not shy to bark out instructions to his new teammates to keep things in check at the back.
And that’s exactly what happened as it ended up being a comfortable afternoon for Botman and his Newcastle teammates as they cruised to a 3-0 win with further goals from Sean Longstaff and Bruno Guimaraes.
Naturally, Botman was one of Newcastle’s stand-out performers with a calm and classy second half display.
The caveat of a pre-season friendly match against lower league German opposition will prevent us from getting carried away so soon, but you can already see why Howe and Newcastle were so keen and so relentless in their pursuit of the defender.
In the same way Guimaraes brought a certain level of continental swagger to Newcastle’s midfield, Botman could well do the same to their defence.
The defender had a lot of hype surrounding him following his £35million arrival from Lille this summer. It was always going to be difficult to build on that hype as a second half substitute as a defender in a pre-season friendly, yet somehow Botman managed it.
Even if you have to take it with a pinch of salt, you only get one chance to make a first impression – and it’s hard to fault this one.