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How Newcastle Are Becoming The New Entertainers


How Newcastle Are Becoming The New Entertainers

After thrashing Tottenham 6-1 at St James’ Park on Sunday and Everton 4-1 on Thursday, Newcastle United now lie third in the Premier League table, two points ahead of fourth-place Manchester United and eight clear of 5th-place Tottenham Hotspur sixth-place Aston Villa.

At this point, barring a remarkable collapse, it does seem like the Magpies will be playing in the premier competition of European football next season for what would be the first time since the 2002/03 campaign. In a game that was branded as the match that would decide the top four, Newcastle scored an astonishing five goals in 21 minutes, with Jacob Murphy’s expression after his second goal of the afternoon the best representation of what the feeling around the ground was like – utter disbelief.

And their current third-place position is thoroughly deserved. The simple speed of Eddie Howe’s work in getting his side into such a position already has been mind-blowing and is a testament to the fantastic work he has done at the club since his appointment in 2021.

When the takeover of the club by a Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund was completed for £305m, Champions League qualification was regarded as a goal that Newcastle would be able to achieve after a few seasons in transition. Few, if any, were expecting them to achieve it quite this soon. The fantastic performances of this Newcastle side have brought back hope to the fans that success is coming back to St James’ Park and so here, we take a look at how the exploits of Eddie Howe’s current team are mirroring the exploits of Newcastle’s last great team, and what that could lead to…


Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers

Newcastle first earned the title of The Entertainers under the stewardship of Kevin Keegan, who was in charge at the club from 1992 to 1997. In short, Keegan saved the club from relegation to the third tier, got them promoted back to the top flight and in the process, built a team that would electrify English football through their flair and attacking style of play, and come agonisingly close to winning the biggest prize in the country.

In February of 1992, two-time Ballon d’Or winner Keegan made his first foray into management. His first job was with Newcastle United, a club that were a big part of Keegan’s life both personally and professionally. Keegan himself made 78 appearances for the Magpies during a two-year stint at St James’ Park during his playing career, and reportedly both his father and uncle were Newcastle fans.

After trophy-laden spells at Liverpool and Hamburg during the 70s, followed by a brief two-year stay on the south coast with Southampton, Keegan would then make the move to Tyneside as a player. The former Scunthorpe United youth player would play for the club from 1982 to 1984, becoming a fan favourite and scoring a combined 48 league goals in 78 appearances during his stay. He retired in 1984 and famously declared that he would never go into management.

But in 1992, Newcastle were in dire straits. They had unfortunately suffered the ignominy of relegation from Division One in 1989 and had sat in the second tier since. Their first season after relegation saw them actually do very well as they led the way at the top of the table for the majority of the campaign, but they faded away towards the end and had to ultimately settle for a play-off spot.

However, bitter rivals Sunderland saw them off over two legs and consigned them to another season in the second tier. The following season then saw them finish 11th. The 1991/92 campaign is where it all changed for the Magpies, because despite a promising start to the season, their form and performances quickly deteriorated and they found themselves in a relegation battle. As a result, manager Ossie Ardiles was sacked and Kevin Keegan was appointed as his replacement on the 5th of February.

Keegan’s remit? To keep the club up and prevent relegation to the third tier for the first time. As we know now, Keegan did do that, but also much more. Under his leadership, Newcastle narrowly stayed up with a 20th-place finish only secured on the final day after a 2-1 win over Leicester City.

The 1992/93 season saw Newcastle still playing in the second tier, albeit the newly named Division One due to the Premier League’s inception. Smart transfer business conducted by the club, including the signings of striker Andy Cole, midfielder Rob Lee and defender John Beresford, saw Newcastle finally secure promotion back to the top-flight as Division One champions that year.

1993/94 is arguably when the moniker of the Entertainers was first born, with Newcastle’s performances in their first season back in the top-flight seeing them garner a third-place finish and qualify for the UEFA Cup in the process. Their style of play was characterised by incisive passing and free-flowing attacking football, resulting in a lot of goals – 82 to be exact. And that was the crux of Keegan’s philosophy – he wanted the club to be known for scoring lots of goals and playing thrilling, eye-catching football.

The 1994/95 campaign saw the Magpies finish sixth in the Premier League, with many blaming the January sale of striker Cole to Manchester United as the reason for why Newcastle were unable to sustain their impressive form and worry the teams right at the top of the table for another season. So after third and sixth-place finishes in their first two seasons back, Newcastle strengthened their squad heavily as they went all out in search of a Premier League title in 1995/96. Goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, defender Warren Barton, French winger David Ginola and QPR striker Les Ferdinand all joined the club for a combined £16m, and Newcastle so very nearly got what they were after.

A strong opening half of the season saw Newcastle win nine of their first ten league matches, and they famously held a 12-point advantage over Manchester United in January. A 2-1 win over Middlesbrough in February preceded a wretched run of form in which Newcastle picked up just two wins from eight matches.

This dip in form combined with the relentless form of Manchester United and the pressure of being in such a title race meant that the lead was eventually cut to just a single point in March. April then saw what is often referred to as the Premier League’s greatest-ever game, when Liverpool beat the Magpies 4-3 via a Stan Collymore stoppage-time winner that left Keegan slumped over the Anfield advertising hoardings in despair. United ultimately ended up pipping Keegan’s men to first place by four points, breaking the hearts of Geordies everywhere and capping off a season that initially held so much promise in anguish.

The following season would be Keegan’s last in the north-east. Newcastle signed Alan Shearer from Blackburn for a then-record £15m in a move that signalled their intention to go again for the top prize. The season started off well and Newcastle did top the table at various points of the season. But just a few days into the new year, Keegan handed in his resignation and announced that he wished to “no longer continue in football management at this stage of my life”.

Newcastle would end up finishing second again that year. The following years would then see them slip out of title and top-four contention – the ride was over. Many reasons were cited for the Englishman’s departure, from the psychological damage done the previous season to the long commitment going forward that the club wanted from Keegan that he couldn’t give. But he was gone.

He had saved the club from relegation, brought them back up to the top flight and exhilarated the masses with his swashbuckling brand of football that almost took Newcastle to the promised land. They ultimately didn’t make it there. But they do remain one of the most revered and loved cult sides in all of English football.

Are Eddie Howe’s Team Becoming That?

The question now is, can the current incumbent take Newcastle one step further? Eddie Howe was somewhat of a surprise choice when his appointment was first announced, but he has shown everybody, from the press to the new owners, that his appointment was the correct one at that time.

It was unlikely at the time that (with no disrespect to Howe) a highly-regarded, top-level manager was going to walk into St James’ Park when Howe did, despite whatever riches they might have newly acquired, as Newcastle were still a team in transition and no manager knew exactly what direction the new owners were going to take the club in at that point.

Howe is a fantastic manager, as shown by his work currently and during his time at Bournemouth. And while he may not be the one to break Newcastle’s long major honours hoodoo, Howe is already putting the groundwork in place for future success, whether that success does come from him or a future appointment.

But there are signs that Eddie Howe is shaping a team in the image of Keegan’s great Entertainers. Not just from the forward-thinking style of football Howe plays, which was central to Keegan’s philosophy. In Howe, Newcastle have a manager who espouses similar ideas. He was praised for the direct, forward-thinking football that he got his Bournemouth team to play when they were first promoted to the Premier League, with the Cherries punching well above their weight and picking up many memorable results.

Howe is now playing the same memorable football at St James’ Park, shown not only by the recent 6-1 win last weekend, but characterised with their 3-3 draw with defending champions Manchester City in August, 5-1 wins over both Brentford and West Ham, and a 4-0 win over Aston Villa alongside 3-0 and 4-1 wins over Leicester and Fulham all coming this season.

At this stage of the campaign and with six games still to go, Newcastle have scored 58 goals. That is more than they managed to score in the entirety of their last nine Premier League campaigns, with their total of 56 in 2011/12 recently being surpassed by their current tally. Newcastle’s current high-scoring team is certainly part of the brand of football that Keegan loved so much, with his sides scoring at least 65 goals in every season from 1993/94 to 1996/97.

It's not only in the attacking department where Howe shares similarities with the Entertainers but also in terms of transfers. Keegan was backed heavily by the club and brought in some excellent, transformative signings. Howe has also been backed to a similar extent, with the big-money signings of Alexander Isak, Sven Botman and Bruno Guimaraes the best examples.

When Kevin Keegan was also first brought in, he noted the impressive crop of young players that Newcastle possessed at the time. That crop included players such as Lee Clark, Steve Howey, Steve Watson and Robbie Elliott, and this group of players would be representatives of Newcastle throughout Keegan’s tenure. Howe has a similar crop of English talent currently at his disposal, with the likes of Joe Willock, Anthony Gordon and the Longstaff brothers, who have all been ably supported by older heads such as Nick Pope and Kieran Trippier and have all performed well so far.

Further in the vein of Keegan, Howe is much loved by his squad, and has also improved members of it. Arguably the best examples are Joelinton and Miguel Almiron. The discovery of Joelinton’s abilities as a No 8 in midfield was accidental, but Howe has still done well in coaching the Brazilian to further learn the position and maintain a solid level of performance. His ability to also get Miguel Almiron out of his slump ever since joining the club has been magical, with the Paraguayan currently having his best-scoring season for the Magpies.

The current Newcastle squad is somewhat mirroring the Entertainers for the way they have caught the imagination of the fanbase and given them hope that glory is coming back to St James’ Park. But if they are becoming the new Entertainers, there is certainly a small difference between this side and the side from nearly 30 years ago.

Lee Clark once said that “the identity was straightforward. "[Keegan] wanted to keep clean sheets if he could, but if that wasn't possible, just go and score more than the opponents”. Now while that way of thinking almost took Newcastle to title glory, sacrificing defensive solidity with a focus on just the attacking side of the game is arguably what let Keegan and Newcastle down in the quest for the Premier League.

Would it perhaps have been worth it to sacrifice some of that style for substance – tighten up at the back and sacrifice the attacking philosophy if it meant that a title could have been won? Eddie Howe certainly seems to think so in the pursuit of silverware and reaching the next level, with his side having lost just four league games all season and have conceded the lowest amount of goals in the league (26). That is because, despite their attacking prowess and ability to score goals, Howe knows the value of tightening things up defensively and shutting out the opponent. That is why Newcastle are currently third in the Premier League, and if they invest correctly in the summer, they could be further up in the table in future seasons.

Eddie Howe’s men could become the new Entertainers of sorts – in fact, they might have already done it and we may look back in future years at this specific campaign as when they officially took that label. But will they be able to live up to the standard that their predecessors set?

While the squad of the mid-90s didn’t end up winning any silverware, they did leave an indelible mark on English football and their own fanbase - which some would argue is more important than silverware. While Howe and co could end up breaking Newcastle’s long trophyless streak, will they be able to replace the much-loved Keegan and co in the hearts and minds of the English press and fanbase?

Who Might They Sign In The Summer?

Boss Eddie Howe will reportedly be rewarded for the immense progress he has made with the first team this season, with club officials surprised at just how well the former Bournemouth man has done this campaign.

As such, many reports have emerged over the past few days that say that Howe will be given a £150m ‘warchest’ for this summer’s transfer window. With the likelihood of European football to add to the three competitions they will be partaking in domestically, squad depth is a must. Although the team they have this season has performed well, they will need to make additions to not only sustain these performances, but improve on them and take that step further.

Therefore, expect it to be a busy summer at St James’ Park. For now though, with the season still ongoing, their transfer strategy and direction in the market remains to be seen, but here are the players that they have already been linked with…

Kieran Tierney

Despite the admirable performances of Dan Burn at left-back since his move back to his boyhood club, Howe reportedly wants an out-and-out specialist to fill the position.

Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney has thus been linked with a move to the Magpies, with plenty of reasons why the Scot could elect to make the move. He has struggled for regular minutes at the Emirates this season following the arrival and impressive performances of Oleksandr Zinchenko, with Tierney starting just five times in the league.

For a player as talented as the Scot, the substitutes bench is not where he will want to be. Furthermore, his attacking style of play as a full-back also appeals to Howe, with Burn severely limited by this and struggling to offer much going forward. With a contract that runs until 2026, Arsenal will be hoping to at least recoup the full £25m they spent on the Celtic youth product in 2019, with a price tag of between £30m-£40m mooted for the full-back.


Newcastle have previously shown interest in Raphinha, with the Magpies linked with the forward last year before he decided to join Barcelona from Leeds in a deal worth up to £55m. And they do have several reasons to reignite that interest, with one being their current lack of any standout wide options.

The likes of Allan Saint-Maximin, Anthony Gordon and Jacob Murphy will never be the 10 to 15 goals-a-season outlet that Newcastle need, whereas Raphinha has done that in the Premier League previously. He would almost certainly be able to replicate those sort of performances in a Newcastle team who are much better than the Leeds side he played in, and would be a smart signing.

Barcelona’s well-documented financial issues are still ongoing as well, with the Blaugrana reportedly needing to heavily reduce their wage bill and also sell a whole host of players this summer in order to balance their books, and Raphinha is one such player that they may have to cut loose.

While the Brazilian has performed well in his first season in La Liga, registering nine goals and ten assists in 42 appearances in all competitions as Barcelona looks set to win what would be their 27th top-flight title, he has still faced criticism from sections of the Spanish press for his performances and is also reportedly unhappy about not always being played in his favoured right-wing position, and could therefore be let go for a slightly smaller fee than in normal circumstances.

James Maddison

The Magpies’ obsession with Leicester’s James Maddison has persisted for quite some time now, with that interest materialising in the form of bids in the region of £40m to £50m from the Toon in the summer, which were ultimately rejected.

However, with the disastrous season that Leicester have had in 2022/23 as they battle relegation, which is in stark contrast to the outstanding season that Newcastle have had, Maddison’s head must surely have been turned somewhat. Were he to join Newcastle, he would most likely be playing Champions League football for an ambitious and well-resourced club, playing within a young and hungry team that is only going to get better in the future.

Maddison’s talents would also bring a different dimension to Newcastle’s already impressive attack, with the ability to both score and dictate play from midfield and in a slightly more advanced role, as well as bringing a threat from set-pieces. With just a year left on his contract, it means that Newcastle might even be able to bag the midfielder for a seriously cut-price fee, or at least for a lower price than the bids they had rejected in the summer.

Moussa Diaby

Another winger that Newcastle may opt to try their luck with is Bayer Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby, who has quietly been one of the most impressive wingers in the Bundesliga, and arguably in Europe, over the past couple of seasons.

His impressive output not only this season (14 goals and 10 assists in all comps), but in every season since joining the Bundesliga club in 2019, have been impressive. Barring his first season at the BayArena where he registered a very respectable eight goals and eight assists, the Frenchman has bagged double figures in every season since - with 10G and 15A in 2020/21, and 17G and 14A in 21/22.

Diaby is quick and direct, and although Leverkusen would demand a huge transfer fee, the signing of a talent like Diaby would represent huge ambition from Newcastle’s ownership in taking the side to the next level.

Arda Guler & Ferdi Kadioglu

According to Turkish outlet A Spor, Newcastle scouts will be in attendance at Fenerbahce’s match with Istanbulspor on Monday to watch the duo of Arda Guler and Ferdi Kadioglu. 18-year-old Guler plays in midfield, while 23-year-old Kadioglu is a full-back who is comfortable on either flank.

Both are key players for the Super Lig side, and Fenerbahce would reportedly be willing to sell the pair for a combined fee of around £45m. However, there is an interesting clause in Guler’s contract that means he could be available for just €5m if he fails to hit 1,500 minutes of game time this season. Currently, the youngster has played 749. Fenerbahce still have eight league matches plus a two-legged cup semi-final still to play, but with Guler having made just three league starts this season, it remains to be seen whether or not he hits the required number of minutes.

Either way, Newcastle could soon be picking up an underrated gem on the cheap, and they would be an attractive destination for a player who is considered to be one of Turkey’s most highly-rated young players, while Kadioglu could end up being either a starter or simply just strong backup, as the club looks to get rid of old-regime players such as Javier Manquillo and Paul Dummett.