Stunning attacking trio, scapegoats and summer flops - The winners and losers of Newcastle United's turbulent campaign
With Newcastle United’s 2020/21 Premier League season all-but over, we take a look at the players who starred and struggled.
The stars of the show
The goalkeeping department
The campaign began with Karl Darlow in between the sticks, who proved he can play more than just second fiddle.
Save after save – he was the busiest goalkeeper in the Premier League at one point – preserved United wins, draws and prevented fan pressure on Steve Bruce building even earlier.
It put him on the cusp on an England call-up but was dropped at the worst possible time to coincide with Martin Dubravka’s recall.
The return of Freddie Woodman this summer strengthens what is already a talented pool – and you wouldn’t be surprised if one of them were to be sold.
The two wing-backs
No one should downplay the role Jacob Murphy and Matt Ritchie played in United’s charge away from the bottom three. And they both helped in very different ways.
A new-found wing-back position for Murphy completely changed his fortunes on Tyneside. He has been direct, confident and almost fearless in a sense.
It would have been very easy for him to throw in the towel but the 26-year-old has shown to be a true professional and what he can offer.
He absolutely deserves a new contract at his boyhood club.
And then onto Ritchie. There aren’t many members of the United squad that match the 31-year-old’s passion, heart, desire and leadership.
The constant shouts of encouragement or “I do love playing away” outbursts – his captain-like influence on the dressing room is key.
But as well as that, he has added quality through his crosses, assists and overall experience.
To think he almost left in January. For £12million, he has been a bargain.
The three-man attack
By Allan Saint-Maximin’s standards, it was very stop-start at the beginning of the season but his form since the March international break has been nothing short of exceptional.
Those five minutes against Burnley epitomises exactly what the Frenchman has in his locker – but it’s nothing fans didn’t already know.
Quite simply, on his day, he is a world-beater. He was the main spark that pulled the club towards safety.
And for the first time since Demba Ba – or Papiss Cisse in 2011/22 – Newcastle finally have a Premier League proven goalscorer in Callum Wilson.
With his pace, power and ability to feed off scraps at times, he is the type of forward United fans have craved and needed for years.
Wilson will be the first to admit he hasn’t played as much as he had hoped for but 12 goals in 26 appearances certainly isn’t a bad return – £20m well spent.
There’s also a special mention to Miguel Almiron.
Although his attacking qualities have been sacrificed – which is a testament to his relentless grafting – after reverting back to five in defence, it’s easy to forget how outstanding he was in that ‘Graeme Jones system’.
That man Joe Willock
If there is a permanent deal to be had with Arsenal then Newcastle have to be all over it.
There is so much to be admired about the 21-year-old – his energy, his ability to play a key part in both boxes – he is everything you need and Newcastle especially need in a midfielder.
If the Gunners are really open to selling him then more fool them. Get him signed up.
The flops and the forgotten
The summer signings
Bar Wilson, it has been a deeply disappointing debut season for the new boys.
Ryan Fraser’s arrival, in particular, was met with a lot of excitement but he has only shown minor glimpses.
In truth, the Scotland international has never looked fully fit. Indeed, the only standout moment of his Toon career so far was that red card at Sheffield United.
Really, his decision to sit out of Bournemouth’s relegation battle has damaged the winger in the long run.
His form for Scotland in the World Cup qualifiers did suggest he was nearing his best again but a little over a few days later, he was out with a groin injury.
The 27-year-old must benefit from a strong pre-season so Newcastle can begin to see the real Fraser and get that lethal partnership with Wilson going again.
Indeed, Fraser hasn’t taken anywhere near the amount of stick that Jeff Hendrick has.
At first, the Republic of Ireland international looked to be a shrewd piece of business but as his performances gradually dipped, so did his reputation with the supporters.
In a sense, he has become a bit of a scapegoat
Almost a year on from being tracked by Liverpool, Jamal Lewis is still getting his bearings on Tyneside.
The 23-year-old enjoyed his best game in a black and white shirt in the 2-0 away win at Everton but wasn’t given the opportunity to kick on from then with the experience of Paul Dummett’s favoured by Bruce.
It has been a difficult year and a big learning curve for Lewis but the full-back undoubtedly still has all the attributes to succeed at the club.
The emotional homecoming for Andy Carroll just hasn’t worked out.
Stop-start with injuries last season, even though the Geordie striker has stayed fit throughout this term, Bruce just hasn’t fancied him.
We’re all old romantics at heart but sadly, it is looking increasingly likely he’ll leave this summer.
Poor Emil Krafth just doesn’t look up to Premier League standard, while Dwight Gayle’s involvement has been underwhelming, though most of that has been through no fault of his own.
Then, of course, there is the curious case of Matty Longstaff.
He is absolutely not a flop – far from it – but the way he has been frozen out, you think he’d done something drastically wrong.