The ugly, the bad and the good: One of Newcastle United's most memorable seasons in three-parts
and live on Freeview channel 276
On paper, Newcastle simply flirted with relegation before finishing mid-table without any cup-run.
In any other normal season this would be seen as a failure, however, this was far from a normal campaign on Tyneside.
Here, we reflect and reminisce on what, even by their standards, was a crazy 2021/22 for Newcastle United:
Steve Bruce maintained that he would keep Newcastle United ‘ticking along’ but after a summer window where only Joe Willock joined the club and a deadline day that had Bruce scrambling to get a deal for Hamza Choudhury done, only to be told by the hierarchy that it was a no-go - things certainly weren’t ticking along nicely.
A heavy opening day defeat to West Ham, a game which Callum Wilson has since admitted the team weren’t ‘fit enough’ to compete in dampened the mood.
12 goals conceded in their first four matches certainly didn’t help matters and by the time the second-international break came along, the Magpies were second-bottom of the table.
Any hope that this season would be different had evaporated and an ugly atmosphere at both home and away games had crept in.
At the time, their defeat to Wolves seemed like the end of the world, but who were we to know that everything would change just five days later.
It feels wrong to put the takeover of the club in this section, however, the truth of the matter is fortunes on the field barely changed for the first part of the ‘new era’.
Steve Bruce couldn’t harness the takeover euphoria against Spurs and whilst Graeme Jones earned two solid draws away from home during his time in charge, it was hardly spectacular.
Eddie Howe was selected as the man to take Newcastle forward but as his first home game, the chaotic 3-3 draw with Brentford showed, the Magpies still had a lot of work to do.
The high of their first win against Burnley was quickly forgotten after a hammering against Leicester City, but the nadir was still to come.
Cambridge United at home, backed by 52,000 supporters, should have been the moment they turned the corner - they lost 1-0.
A week later, they couldn’t defeat an out-of-sorts Watford team on their own patch. 20 games played. One win. Threat of relegation - very real.
Despite the travelling support chanting Kieran Trippier’s name at Elland Road, it was Jonjo Shelvey who coolly stepped-up to slam home a free-kick that gave Newcastle a priceless 1-0 win.
Following the victory over Leeds United, the team jetted-off to Saudi Arabia for a warm weather training camp - and came back a completely different unit.
Bruno Guimaraes, Dan Burn and Matt Targett were added in the dying embers of the January transfer window and all focus was on survival by any means.
Between August and January, wins were very hard to come by - but February to May was completely different.
Everton, Aston Villa, Brentford, Brighton, Southampton, Wolves, Leicester, Crystal Palace, Norwich, Arsenal and Burnley were all dispatched as the Magpies racked up win after win.
Sure, it wasn’t all pretty. Late defeats to Everton and Chelsea was compounded by a horror show at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but Newcastle showed resilience to bounce back time and time again.
Even after defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City when the side could easily have been ‘on the beach’, the team showed their mettle to end the season with another couple of wins.
Every single member of the squad improved under Howe as the team, through hard work and commitment, with a sprinkle of Brazilian magic, hauled themselves out of danger to finish well clear of the drop zone.
Newcastle were far from flashy at times, but that’s exactly what got them over the line during this run. They relied on grit and determination as a unit to pick up the results they needed, especially at home.
Their January transfer business was superb. Target and Burn added defensive solidity and ‘know-how’. Chris Wood was a good stand-in for the injured Wilson whilst Trippier and Guimaraes added the ‘touch of class’ that has elevated the standards at the club.
With every win they notched up, belief in the team grew and grew. They transformed from a team that didn’t know how to win games, to a team that simply didn’t know how to get beat - and as mentioned, when they did get beat, they knew how to recover.
No-one possibly embodies this transformation more than Joelinton whose journey this season perfectly mirrors the club as a whole.
His start to the season once again had fans questioning his future at the club and why Bruce continued to persist with the Brazilian.
Even when Howe came on-board, Joelinton still didn’t really have a place in the team to call his own. However, as we all know, Ciaran Clark’s dismissal against Norwich City changed all that - and he hasn’t looked back since.
The takeover was clearly the turning point for Newcastle this season. Off the pitch, it reignited the passion in the stands, galvanised the city as a whole and gave hope for the future.
Their transformation this season was spearheaded by Howe, funded by the owners, carried out by the players and supported by supporters.
We’ve seen a whole club united once again and the worries of autumn and winter seem a long, long way away.
After two Covid-19 affected seasons, we all joined together for yet another Newcastle United rollercoaster ride and my what a ride it has been.
There’s no doubt that in the future, we will look back at 2021/22 as the season everything changed at St James’s Park.