Pre-Season Focus: Newcastle United
Newcastle will kick off their Premier League campaign against Aston Villa this weekend in a game both sides will be looking to take three points from.
Newcastle, rightly received a lot of plaudits last season, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since 2002-03. Manager Eddie Howe probably surprised many, he certainly surprised me with the impact he has had at St James Park since he replaced Steve Bruce. Yes, Newcastle has the money with their new owners (rightly or wrongly) but you still need to get the team playing and Howe achieved this.
Many will point to the £150 million spent last summer but he was still able to get, let’s be honest, very average players perform a lot higher than they ever did before.
One thing is for sure, regardless of the noise outside of Newcastle, their fans are enjoying the ride and they will want to make sure that Europe isn’t a one-off and it becomes the norm.
Stadium: St. James Park.
Nickname(s): The Magpies.
Manager: Eddie Howe.
Last Season: 4th.
Top Scorer(s): Callum Wilson (18)
Players who have played for Villa and Newcastle United
Nolberto Solano began his professional career in his country of birth and had spells with Sporting Cristal and Deportivo Municipal. In 2022, he moved to Boca Juniors where he played alongside Maradona who used to call him ‘Maestrito’ and then was signed by Newcastle United a year later for £2.5 million.
Nobby quickly became a favourite at St James Park after he scored on his debut and played in the 1999 FA Cup Final. He made 172 appearances over six years during his first spell with the Geordies. Due to a strained relationship with manager Bobby Robson, Solano signed for Aston Villa for around £1.5 million in January 2004.
That season with Villa, he finished top scorer and was voted the club’s Player of the Year by the supporters, his teammates, and the local press. He made 52 appearances for Villa during a two-year spell before rejecting a deadline-day move to Liverpool in favour of returning back to Newcastle for £1.5 million.
During his two years back at St James Park he was often played at right-back instead of his usual winger position due to injuries and represented the club a further 58 times.
In 2007, due to his family moving to London, he asked to move the club regrettably and joined West Ham. Solano had spells with five more clubs including Leicester and Hull and eventually retired in 2012.
Matt Target came through the academy at Southampton and went on to make 43 appearances for the first time. He spent 16 years at the club with a loan spell at Fulham in 2018.
In 2019, he signed for newly promoted Aston Villa for a fee believed to be in the region of £14 million and became an instant first-team regular at Villa Park. At the end of the 2020-21 season, he was the only outfield player to play all 38 Premier League games and was voted Players’ Player of the Season.
That summer Lucas Digne was signed to add competition at left-back but Targett didn’t want to take a chance on his first-team opportunities so signed for Newcastle on loan. The left-back impressed during his loan spell and signed for the Geordies for a fee of £15 million where he still plays.
Head to Head
Aston Villa: 59
Last Meeting: Aston Villa 3-0 Newcastle (15th April ’23).
2023/24 Fixtures: H – 30th January ’24, A- 12th August ’23.
IN: Sandro Tonali (£56 million), Harvey Barnes (£39 million), Tino Livramento (£33 million), Yankuba Minteh (£7 million).
OUT: Allan Saint-Maximin (£24 million), Chris Wood (£15 million), Karl Darlow (£350k)
IN: Ibrahim Adel from Pyramids (£700k).
Gateshead 2-3 Newcastle (July 15)
Rangers 1-2 Newcastle (July 18)
Newcastle 3-3 Aston Villa (July 24)
Chelsea 1-1 Newcastle (July 27)
Brighton 1-2 Newcastle (July 29)
Newcastle 2-0 Fiorentina (August 5th)
Newcastle 4-0 Villarreal (August 6th)