'Like a new signing' – The FIVE Newcastle United fringe players aiming to force their way into Eddie Howe's plans

When any new manager arrives, it represents a clean slate. For Eddie Howe and Newcastle United’s current first-team squad, it’s no different.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 4:45 pm

Here, we take a look at the FIVE fringe players bidding to force their way into Howe’s plans at St James’s Park:

Jamal Lewis

Lewis’ £15million arrival from Norwich City last summer was hailed as a major coup given he’d been courted by only Liverpool weeks earlier.

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Newcastle United left-back Jamal Lewis hasn't started a Premier League game since February. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

But it’s turned out to be anything but, with the left-back last starting a Premier League match in February. In total, he’s played six minutes of league football this campaign.

While international duty forced the 23-year-old to miss Howe’s first week in charge, his recent performance for Northern Ireland has reminded fans of his potential.

Indeed, an eye-catching display in the 0-0 draw against European champions Italy – which condemned Roberto Mancini’s side to a World Cup play-off spot – got people on Tyneside talking.

Still at a young age, Lewis has lots of room to develop and under Steve Bruce, that was not fulfilled as he lent on the experience of Matt Ritchie.

Ritchie is well-liked by Howe, so could continue to get the nod for the time being, but Lewis’ pace and desire to get forward fits the new head coach’s style of play.

As a hands-on coach, Howe, who puts the onus on his full-backs to attack, will relish the opportunity to work with Lewis’ raw qualities.

Fabian Schar

Schar played two consecutive 90 minutes against Aston Villa and Southampton at the beginning of the season but hasn’t been seen since.

There is a strong case to argue that the 29-year-old is more effective in a back five. He is the club’s best defender with the ball, and such formation allows him to showcase that with driving runs and crossfield passes.

You could excuse his absence during the latter stages of last term due to injury. Bruce then changed to a back four six games into 2021/22, Graeme Jones reverted back to a five, but Emil Krafth has been selected ahead of Schar.

Howe likes to create from the back and based on the qualities fans saw from Schar under Rafa Benitez in particular, he could thrive once more.

Again, Schar was another one to miss the first week of training under Howe but he returns in good spirits following Switzerland’s World Cup qualification.

Jeff Hendrick

Arriving as a free agent from Burnley, it started well for Hendrick – a thumping debut goal at West Ham – but things soon went west as his performances dipped dramatically.

Really, Hendrick has been fighting a losing battle with the supporters ever since, and it might not be too rash to say he was a scapegoat for many last year.

New season, new start? Not for Hendrick in terms of playing time. Yet two out of three games he has featured in, he’s made a notable impact.

Against Burnley in the Carabao Cup, albeit United exited on penalties, the midfielder was arguably man of the match as Bruce deployed him in a more advanced role.

There wasn’t time to impress during his six-minute cameo in the 4-1 defeat at Manchester United but his substitute appearance against Wolves saw him get on the scoresheet.

Perhaps Hendrick has been a tad unlucky to be completely written off, especially when his midfield teammates have watched games coast past them since August.

With 54 caps for the Republic of Ireland and four years worth of top-flight experience at Burnley, Howe might see value in the 29-year-old.

Dwight Gayle

Bruce said he had previously attempted to sign Gayle but when it came to actually having him at his disposal, the striker barely received a look-in.

And what is perhaps most baffling is the 32-year-old was handed new a three-year contract in the summer, only to play 20 minutes of Premier League football so far.

Gayle’s goalscoring records in the Premier League and Championship don’t compare, with the latter far more superior. But if anything happens to Wilson, the former Crystal Palace man should be the next best thing.

But that’s not the case at the moment. Allan Saint-Maximin was used as a makeshift striker, though stood out superbly at times. Joelinton has marginally improved since his £40m switch, but it’s quite apparent he’s not a striker.

Gayle is an out-and-out number nine and a natural finisher. Howe, and Gayle himself, must address the situation and find a working solution, whether that’s establishing a role in the team or leaving.

Because at present, Gayle is giving off last season Andy Carroll vibes.

Ryan Fraser

Fraser withdrew from the Scotland squad over the international break, which was probably just as well as he aims to rekindle his relationship with Howe and save his Newcastle career.

As already well documented, things didn’t end well between Howe and Fraser on the south coast but the Toon boss insists that matter is behind them.

Since joining last summer, Fraser struggled for fitness or any kind of form – it almost feels like he became a forgotten man, at least until Jones handed him a reprieve during his interim spell.

Fraser failed to catch the eye but the same goes for his teammates. Now comes the real reprieve with Howe at the helm.

Under his former boss, there are no excuses. It’s now or never for Fraser. If he can’t excel under the manager that transformed his career, then you doubt it ever will.

Excitement arose from Fraser’s arrival, but he’s delivered very little. If Howe can get Fraser firing, then, in the true words of Alan Pardew ‘it’ll be like a new signing’.

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