The looming reign of Mike Ashley sucked the delight out of the fans and what once had been a cathedral of football. The start to the 2021/22 season was no different, fans were not expecting miracles, rather just anticipating another season of survival. As usual the summer transfer window did not include an extensive list of signings, Arsenal midfielder Joe Willock being the only signing after having a great loan spell season prior.
The first match of the season saw fans drift to St James’ Park in a bid to see something new from the Magpies, despite going 2-1 up to West Ham the joy was short-lived with the match ending 4-2, foreshadowing the journey ahead. Usually, managers setting records should be celebrated - unless that is Steve Bruce taking the club on their longest winless run in the Premier League. As the weeks went on there were countless matches without a win resulting in Newcastle sitting at the bottom of the table for most of the start of the season. Relegation seemed the future for the club unless a big turnaround came along.
October 7th 2021, is a date that no Newcastle fan will ever forget, receiving the news from Sky Sports that the Saudi-led takeover of the club which had been circling for a while had finally went through. To the disbelief of many, this guaranteed relegation team fast became one of the richest football clubs in the world. The £300 million takeover of the club ended Mike Ashley’s 14-year hold on the club, and ignited the belief of Newcastle fans which had been missing for so long. The world of football was now focused on the Toon, with fans swamping the stairs of the stadium and the roads around, celebrating that their club was finally back. Alongside a sea of celebrating, also came a wave of controversy and outrage due to the links of human rights issues which came with the new owners.
A new era had well and truly begun at St James’ Park, despite this the past still lingered. The first match post-takeover was Tottenham at home to a sell-out crowd, which once again ended in defeat for the revitalised club. Following the welcomed departure of Mike Ashley, it wasn’t long after that the departure of manager Steve Bruce followed. Rumours circulated over who was due to takeover a club which was sat nineteenth in the Premier League, the likes of Unai Emery and Paulo Fonseca popular suggestions. However, the black and white army were blessed with another option in the form of Eddie Howe.
Howe took charge in November with a plan to change history, and managed to steer the team to their first win of the season against Burnley. Following this brief delight, came further heavy defeats including 4-0 losses to both Leicester City and Manchester City as the anticipated January transfer window approached.
Predicted to spend big, many rumours over who was going to join the club circulated. With first through the door being England International Kieran Trippier, signing from Atletico Madrid. The experienced player has since not only brought match winning free-kicks but also a level of expertise and guidance to help steer the mentality of the team. Striker Chris Wood signed from fellow relegation battlers Burnley, taking a key role upfront after main forward Callum Wilson suffered an injury keeping him out for months. Matt Targett and Dan Burn were provided with the job of improving the defence of Newcastle who had one of the worst in the league. After narrowly missing out on Jesse Lingard, a final signing took the form of Bruno Guimarães. Who has since went on to become a fan favourite whilst providing some of the most memorable goals of the season including a last-minute winner against Leicester.
Nearing the end of the transfer window, the first away win of the season was achieved with a Jonjo Shelvey free-kick securing a 1-0 win over Leeds. This was a significant match on the journey to survival and also contributed to the nine-match unbeaten streak that the club went on. Meaning the team had achieved their longest run without a win and their longest unbeaten run in recent years in the same season. Wins over the likes of Everton, Aston Villa and Southampton saw the Magpies make it out of the relegation zone for the first time since September and reach new heights on the table including remaining 9th for a short while.
There was no shortage of praise for Eddie Howe who steered the team forward, winning manager of the month for February and being a popular vote for manager of the season. The likes of Joelinton, Ryan Fraser and Fabian Schar have also looked like brand new players under Howe’s control. After having one of the worst defences in the league to finishing having one of the best, Newcastle’s 2-1 win over Burnley secured them 11th place this season with 49 points. No team had survived relegation after not securing wins within their first fourteen matches, showing the transformation that Newcastle has been on this season. After being destined for the Championship to finishing closer to a European spot, this club has been on a journey this season and is destined to get better.