Majed Al Sorour sees Newcastle United's 'new dawn' – and Fabian Schar's brilliance
Newcastle United had to wait almost four months for their first win last term.
This season, they got up and running on day one in front of a 52,245 crowd.
Golf Saudi chief executive officer Majed Al Sorour, appointed on to United’s board last season by the club's new owners, was at St James's Park with co-owners Amanda Staveley and Jamie Reuben to see goals from Fabian Schar and Callum Wilson give Newcastle a deserved 2-0 win over newly-promoted Nottingham Forest.
And Al Sorour – who saw the club battle against relegation last season on his visits from Saudi Arabia – will have sensed and felt the mood change on Tyneside.
Wor Flags unveiled a stunning banner in the Gallowgate End using a Nina Simone lyric to herald a “new dawn” at the club before the game. And it felt like one, such was the optimism inside St James’s Park at kick-off time.
The contrast to 12 months ago, when the club was still owned by Mike Ashley, and there were chants against head coach Steve Bruce, was remarkable.
Howe had started summer Nick Pope ahead of Martin Dubravka, the club’s longstanding No.1. United’s head coach also opted to leave Sven Botman, signed from Lille last month, on the bench. Former United midfielder Jack Colback, meanwhile, was in the visiting team’s starting XI along with one-time Newcastle target Jesse Lingard.
Eddie Howe’s side dominated the early stages, and Joe Willock had a shot deflected wide. Forest, nervy at the back, had to defend deep, and in numbers, for the first 15 minutes.
Time and again United attacked their box, but they held out. They also had a couple of opportunities on the break.
United struggled to convert their dominance into clearcut chances until after the half-hour mark, when Joelinton dragged a shot wide after beating a couple of players.
Allan Saint-Maximin also came to the fore before the break as Newcastle pushed for a goal. The breakthrough didn’t come, and the half ended goalless.
Howe sent out an unchanged team for the second half, and United pressed on. The breakthrough finally came in the 58th minute when Forest cleared a corner as far as Schar. The defender strode forward unchallenged before unleashing a stunning 25-yard shot into the top left-hand corner of the net.
The strike, the 10th of his career at the club, lifted the roof at St James’s Park, which had been impatiently waiting for a breakthrough.
Newcastle, however, didn’t attempt to sit on their lead. They pushed for another goal, and Saint-Maximin and Willock buzzed in and around the box.
The all-important second goal came in the 78th minute. Wilson beat Dean Henderson with a clever finish from a left-wing cross from Joelinton, who had linked with Saint-Maximin.
There were more changes in the final few minutes, and Botman made an injury-time debut for the club.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Pope, Trippier, Schar, Burn, Targett, Guimaraes (Botman, 90), Willock (S Longstaff, 81), Joelinton, Almiron (Fraser, 81), Wilson (Wood, 89), Saint-Maximin (Murphy 89). Subs not used: Dubravka, Dummett, Ritchie, Anderson.