Newcastle United's biggest transfer yet hints at exciting future direction
The countdown is on. It’s just a matter of days until Newcastle United’s players return for the start of pre-season training.
Sven Botman’s due on Tyneside for a medical ahead of a £35million move to the club, and, for once, there’s a buzz among fans ahead of the new Premier League season.
There’ll also be a buzz in the training ground, set for a much-needed rebuild in the coming months, when the squad reports back at the end of the week for what will be an intensive pre-season programme.
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The club, which has confirmed warm-up games against Benfica, Atalanta and Athletic Bilbao, has already signed Nick Pope and Matt Targett.
But it’s the capture of Botman which has seemingly most caught the imagination of a fanbase which, a year ago, was losing hope of a brighter future under new ownership.
Newcastle this month went up against AC Milan for one of European football’s most highly-rated young defenders – and won.
That would’ve been unthinkable under owner Mike Ashley, who sold the club last October to an ambitious consortium led by Amanda Staveley in a £305million deal.
Speaking at the time, Staveley said: “We appreciate the gem we’re custodians of, and we’ll make sure that every single part of this club is dusted down, and we’ll invest in all levels.
"We’ve got to. It’s critical. It can’t happen without that.”
The club’s owners are investing in “all levels”. They’ve had to, as, for 14 years, the club was starved of investment.
A couple of months before the takeover, the club’s hierarchy had refused to sanction a loan move for Leicester City midfielder Hamza Choudhury, and head coach Steve Bruce had gone into the 2021/22 campaign with an almost-unchanged squad.
The change since the takeover – on and off the pitch – is almost unparalleled.
United, which had been going backwards under Ashley, are again moving forward, and tens of thousands of supporters are expected to try and secure the 1,000 season-tickets that the club are making available on a first come, first served-basis tomorrow morning.
Newcastle’s owners – who are refurbishing dilapidated concourses and hospitality areas at St James’s Park this summer – know they could sell tens of thousands more season-tickets, such is the interest in a team which went on a phenomenal run earlier this year following the mid-season appointment of Howe.
Looking longer-term, the ownership group is looking at expanding St James’s Park. Demand far exceeds supply, as it did during Kevin Keegan's first spell as manager.
Most supporters will be disappointed given the limited number of tickets available, but the small release, at least, will allow more fans to get a glimpse of the new-look team over the course of the season through matchday sales.
We all had a glimpse at what Howe's side was capable of last season. Now we want to see more, much more, of team which the city is united behind.
And, as we saw last season, a united Newcastle United is a powerful thing.