Newcastle United critique: Player, flop and moment of the season and our writers reveal their hopes for 2021/22

The dust has settled on the Premier League season that was. Almost seven days on from the final day Fulham flourish, our writers Liam Kennedy, Miles Starforth and Jordan Cronin are putting the 2020/21 campaign under the microscope.

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 12:30 pm

Here they pick their moment of the season, the biggest flop, the player of the campaign, reveal their hopes for the 2021/22 campaign and more, with pre-season training just five weeks or so away.

Player of the season

MS: “Newcastle have got a lot wrong in terms of recruitment over the past few years, but this deal was a masterstroke. Callum Wilson has been immense - inside and outside the box. His goalscoring record speaks for itself, but his pace and movement outside the box, and influence in the dressing room, has been just as important.”

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Steve Bruce manager of Newcastle United with Joe Willock after the Premier League match between Fulham and Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on May 23, 2021 in London, United Kingdom.
Steve Bruce manager of Newcastle United with Joe Willock after the Premier League match between Fulham and Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on May 23, 2021 in London, United Kingdom.

LK: “Some people will look at the end of season contribution of Joe Willock as a telling chapter in the season, but only one player was consistently immense from start to finish. Callum Wilson is my choice for POTY.”

JC: “Allan Saint-Maximin edges it for me, just purely because he was the main spark that kept Newcastle in the Premier League. No Newcastle player comes close to him when he is on top form.”

Most improved

MS: “Jacob Murphy played his way into Steve Bruce’s plans last pre-season amid loan interest from a number of clubs, and he would go on to make an important contribution to the team as a right wing-back, especially in the final two months of the season. He’s taken a big step forward.”

LK: “Jacob Murphy for me. He went away a shy, quiet lad and came back a right wing-back beast. More of the same needed next season – and a new contract hopefully. Honourable mention for Karl Darlow in this category, as he’s finally proven his Premier League doubters wrong.”

JC: “Jacob Murphy was, understandably, written off by many at the beginning of the season but he has completely transformed his Newcastle career - making that right-wing back position his own. His crossing is exceptional and his defensive work gets better each game.”

Flop of the season

MS: “Ryan Fraser. The worry, for me, when the club signed was that he hadn’t played a competitive game for eight months. He was always going to be vulnerable to injuries, especially given his pace, and sadly his campaign was punctuated by spells of unavailability. We saw a few glimpses of what he can do, but we needed to see more, much more.”

LK: “At times it looked like it might be Joelinton again and even Dwight Gayle was in with a shout but I’m saying Ryan Fraser due to how much of a disappointment he’s been this season. Again Jeff Hendrick was up there but edged out by the Scot’s ability undelivered.”

JC: “It’s between Jeff Hendrick and Ryan Fraser… I’ll go with Fraser because I expected so much more, whereas I didn’t really know a lot about Hendrick in the first place. The Scot needs a massive pre-season - not once has he looked fit in a NUFC shirt.”

Best performance/result

MS: “There were a few big wins, and big performances, last season. The late comeback against Liverpool was particularly memorable, but the team’s 4-2 win over Leicester City was the performance - and result - of the season for me. The team took the game to their hosts - and deservedly led 4-0 at one point.”

LK: “Southampton at home. United battled adversity with injuries to key players and a red card, having looked in absolute control. It took a real rearguard action to keep the Saints at bay. I’ve not cheered as loud as I did on hearing the final whistle that day, in a long, long while. Everton was quality and so too was the obviously brilliant win against Leicester. But for me, the drama of that Saturday evening in March will take some beating.”

JC: “Obvious choice is Leicester away. I expected nothing from the game but was absolutely blown away by the performance for 75 minutes. We all knew the team were capable of it, hence the frustration around how the season played out.”

Worst performance/result

MS: “There were a few contenders for this one - Brentford and Sheffield United come to mind - but the 3-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion was, for me, by far the worst. Newcastle went to the Amex Stadium needing a result, but the team didn’t do nearly enough with or without the ball. Thankfully, everything changed after that game.”

LK: “This one has to be a toss up between Newport County and Brentford in the League Cup. I honestly can’t split them. Both awful in their own right. It takes some bad shows to beat Brighton, Sheffield United and Aston Villa away.”

JC: “Brighton away. It was an absolute disgrace and Bruce should have been sacked after it. It’s that performance and result alone that makes Newcastle’s turnaround quite incredible.”

Moment of the season

MS: “Newcastle were losing 1-0 at Turf Moor - and deep in relegation trouble - when Allan Saint-Maximin came off the bench against Burnley. The club needed a performance from Saint-Maximin - and it got one. Saint-Maximin set up a goal for Jacob Murphy - and also scored himself. That explosive cameo was the spark the team needed.”

LK: “Joe Willock’s goal at Liverpool. Another bit of pure football drama, following so closely after the Wilson disallowed goal. Looking beyond United’s games, that turnaround between Aston Villa and Fulham in April was also box office stuff, as Newcastle dipped into, and out of, the Premier League bottom three on the back of a draw with Spurs.”

JC: “Willock’s winner against West Ham. Went from almost crying in my chair after Newcastle surrendered a 2-0 lead against 10 men to jumping all over the living room.”

Hopes for next season

MS: “The aim has to be a top-10 finish. This squad, with a few additions, should be more than capable of pushing higher next season.”

LK: “Simple, to be better than last. It has to be. Do I faith it will be? No. Do I hope for better? Yes, of course.”

JC: “Stay away from any kind of relegation trouble and don’t let any golden cup opportunities go to waste.”

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