·1 February 2023
·1 February 2023
Newcastle United’s resurgence gathered pace on Tuesday night when they overcame Southampton to book a first cup final appearance since 1999.
Eddie Howe’s men, who currently sit third in the Premier League table, will head for Wembley later this month with the Carabao Cup up for grabs, having taken huge strides since Amanda Staveley’s consortium completed its takeover at St James’ Park in October 2021.
Here, we take a look at what has changed over the last 15 months.
The club was in deep trouble when Staveley and her wealthy Saudi backers picked up the keys after more than 14 years of seemingly existing simply for the sake of it for much of previous owner Mike Ashley’s ill-fated reign. Three points from the first seven games of the 2021-22 season had left then head coach Steve Bruce on borrowed time and – when he departed after four more games and just another two points – the club was entrenched in yet another relegation battle.
The transformation has been little short of spectacular. On the night she assumed control, Staveley made no secret of her desire to preside over a club which would eventually challenge for trophies and Champions League football. She cannot, however, have expected the prospect of either to arrive quite so soon. Relegation last season was avoided with some comfort, but a blistering start to the new campaign has prompted fans to recalibrate their expectations.
New arrivals Nick Pope, Kieran Tripper, Sven Botman and Bruno Guimaraes in particular have more-than justified the money invested in their services, but they have been supported by significant development in some of the men Howe inherited with Fabian Schar, Joelinton, Sean Longstaff and Miguel Almiron playing key roles. In that respect, Howe’s appointment has been as important, if not more so, as any other element of a recruitment drive which has also brought sporting director Dan Ashworth and chief executive Darren Eales to Tyneside.
Newcastle splashed out around £210million in the first two transfer windows under their new owners and committed a further £48million on Everton frontman Anthony Gordon and West Ham full-back Harrison Ashby last month. The club’s spending power is undeniable despite their repeated warnings over the restrictions imposed by financial regulations, and accusations of sportswashing sit uncomfortably with some fans. However, relatively-modest expenditure on Pope, Trippier and Dan Burn has proved astute and the blending of newcomers with the existing squad has been hugely impressive.
The burning question. The Magpies have ruffled feathers already this season with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp among those to have been exercised by a potential top-six gatecrasher. Howe rightly points out that his side has achieved nothing yet, although that could change at Wembley on February 26. Whether they can stay the pace in the Premier League this season remains to be seen, but even if they do not, that remains the focus of their long-term strategy.
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