The two Newcastle United transfer deals which change everything

It’s almost 15 years since we last saw two Newcastle United players in the same England team.
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Appearances for the club’s players for the national team have been few and far between since Michael Owen and Alan Smith lined up alongside each other against Germany at Wembley in August 2007.

The international friendly, which Steve McClaren’s side lost 2-1, came just three months after Mike Ashley bought Newcastle, seemingly on an impulse.

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That impulse would have wide-ranging consequences for United in the following decade and a half.

The club only had two more England internationals – Andy Carroll and Andros Townsend. Carroll was sold soon after establishing himself as a Premier League player following the club’s promotion in 2010, and Townsend left St James's Park after a relegation in 2016.

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More recently, the club signed Jonjo Shelvey and Callum Wilson, but the pair haven’t won any more caps as Newcastle players.

And that says a lot about the direction the club took under Ashley following the 2007 takeover.

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe.Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe.
Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe.
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When Owen and Smith took to the field against Germany, Ashley was enjoying something of a honeymoon period as owner. There were even chants of “Ashley is a Geordie” that season.

The billionaire would watch games from away ends that season, but the departure of Kevin Keegan the following season would damage, irrevocably, his relationship with the club’s support.

Ashley’s intransigence over transfers – and an overall lack of investment – damaged the club, which was relegated twice during his ownership.

Callum Wilson celebrates scoring for England in 2018.Callum Wilson celebrates scoring for England in 2018.
Callum Wilson celebrates scoring for England in 2018.

That damage will take time to be undone, but the club has already come a long way – on and off the pitch – since last October’s takeover.

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And yesterday, the club signed a second current England international in the space of six months.

Nick Pope joined the club from relegated Burnley in a £10million deal. The goalkeeper joins international team-mate Kieran Trippier, signed in January from Atletico Madrid, at St James’s Park.

The rejuvenated club could yet give Wilson, Shelvey, Matt Targett and Dan Burn a platform to challenge for England call-ups next season ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while Bruno Guimaraes will almost certainly be in the Brazil squad for the mid-season tournament.

England's Alan Smith tussles with Philip Lahm of Germany at Wembley in 2007.England's Alan Smith tussles with Philip Lahm of Germany at Wembley in 2007.
England's Alan Smith tussles with Philip Lahm of Germany at Wembley in 2007.

This was all unthinkable before the takeover, which came amid a winless and worrying start to the 2021/22 season under Steve Bruce.

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United only signed one player – midfielder Joe Willock joined from Arsenal after a successful half-season loan – last summer, when it was clear that the squad, the core of which had been together since the club’s Championship-winning season in 2016/17, needed major investment.

Newcastle’s owners will invest more in the coming weeks – the club hopes to sign Hugo Ekitike and Sven Botman from Stade de Reims and Lille respectively – and the calibre of the club’s targets bodes well for the coming campaign.

And that fact that Trippier and Pope feel that they can progress their England careers as United players is hugely significant, as the club simply wasn’t able to give Three Lions players that kind of platform during Ashley time as owner.