Steve Bruce's Newcastle United kick off their Premier League campaign live on SKY Sports at 8pm on Saturday night against West Ham United and, after a typically quiet week on the St. James' Park Rollercoaster with three international signings and a war of words with The Premier League, are ready to embark on a positive season.
If it was doom and gloom on Tyneside a week ago, Newcastle have transformed the mood in a week with the £20M capture of proven Premier League goalscorer Callum Wilson from Bournemouth and his partner-in-crime winger Ryan Fraser on a free plus the £15M rising to £20M signing of Norwich's left-back Jamal Lewis that makes him the most expensive Northern Ireland footballer ever.
A repeat of last year's 3-2 win and electric attacking performance at The London Stadium is eminently possible and Newcastle have the perfect fixture to open the season with despite West Ham picking up a few wins to survive in Project Restart as the last person they will want to see leading the Newcastle line is their nemesis, striker Callum Wilson.
Wilson, who opted for his Lucky 13 shirt, netted 7 times in 8 games against The Hammers for Bournemouth including an Away hat-trick, some in controversial circumstances and the frontman is clearly relishing making his debut against them:
"It’s West Ham, I like playing against them,” he said.
It’s a nice team to play against, it gives me confidence going into that game having scored so many goals against them in the past."
In fact, Wilson's favourite two opponents in The Premier League are West Ham and Brighton, Newcastle's opening opponents at St. James' Park in Gameweek 2 with the England striker racking up 11 goals and 3 assists in his last 14 games against the pair including this stunning volley set up by none other than Ryan Fraser:
This addition of attacking menace and goalscoring prowess is the key to a revitalised Newcastle, who had a decent season last year, reaching a first FA Cup Quarter-Final since 2005 alongside a steady mid-table Premier League finish yet need to improve on goals scored and chances created which the former Bournemouth pair will provide.
Fraser and Wilson's hunger for goals can have a huge positive effect on a goal-shy squad and leading by example may coax more goals from £40M man Joelinton, who could well play in a 2 up top with Wilson:
Bruce spoke about Newcastle's record buy and his retention of the hallowed no. 9 strip as well as an intention to play both Toon big guns together saying:
"I'm convinced the kid will be better this year. I'm hoping there will be times where we will play the two of them up top and they will complement each other."
While Fraser was the main architect for many of Wilson's goals at Bournemouth, it was his partnership with striker Joshua King, who Eddie Howe played wider left or just behind Wilson as the main front man, that also helped the striker flourish and Joelinton could help Wilson thrive playing in the hole or the wider left striker position.
Predicted Newcastle team vs West Ham:
At West Ham tonight, its likely to be Wilson leading the line alone with Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron on the wings causing chaos alongside him like at The London Stadium stadium last season that could have been 5-0 at half-time with better finishing although Ryan Fraser, who hasn't played a competitive game since March due to his Bournemouth contract expiring over lockdown, is desperate to be involved and could start in and around him:
"I have given myself the best chance to be involved in the game.
"You are only going to get the right type of fitness playing games anyway.
"So why not Saturday?"
Fellow new signing Jamal Lewis is equally champing at the bit to make his debut in black & white and the Northern Ireland international is primed already to start having played 90 minutes for his country against Romania, with 50 of them in a 10-man side.
Lewis, 22, was coveted by Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp, who had a bid turned down before Newcastle bought him from Norwich for £15M, and has his sights set high saying in his first interview as Newcastle player:
"With Newcastle my ambition is to be the best left-back in the Premier League."
By all accounts he is a young, model professional with everything it takes to reach the highest echelons of football and the dedication to get there.
Newcastle striker Andy Carroll returns to former club West Ham looking for his first Premier League since he was a Hammer himself and while a super-sub role is likely despite scoring this wonderful pre-season goal against Crewe,
few have the impact Carroll does when he comes on and his influence on the Newcastle dressing room is massive as demonstrated on social media this week:
Despite Dwight Gayle's injury that leaves him side-lined for up to 4 months, Newcastle have increased their striking options and boosted the squad significantly with the arrival of Wilson, Fraser and Lewis as well as Eire international Jeff Hendrick, who is the perfect "busy" , all-rounder signing in the compressed 2020/21 season when the Premier League season is squeezed into 5 weeks less than its normal length.
There was also the double boost today of midfield talisman Isaac Hayden and keeper Karl Darlow signing long-term contracts with the club:
and in the absence of the injured Dubravka, the more experienced Darlow will get the nod over new goalkeeper Mark Gillespie. Hayden will partner playmaker JonJo Shelvey in the middle of the park and if Fraser isn't fit enough to start, expect Sean Longstaff to resume the no. 10 running role that helped terrorise Bournemouth in that memorable 4-1 win in Project Restart.
A back four of Lewis, Captain Jamaal Lascelles, Fede Fernandez & Javier Manquillo will shore things up in defence for The Magpies with Florian Lejeune leaving today on loan at Spanish side Alaves as Steve Bruce looks to switch to a more attacking team built on a faster, more mobile and athletic centre-half partnership.
Since he arrived at Newcastle, Bruce has insisted he wants to play attacking football and games against West Ham and Brighton are kinder than average fixture list starts than Newcastle have had over the years so there is every chance The Magpies could win them both and be taking 6 points with them to face Spurs in Gameweek 3.
Then we all know what happens next...
Yet after a summer of great hopes dashed with the transformative Saudi takeover now "dead in the water" according to Steve Bruce, truly anything could happen at the ultimate rollercoaster football club Newcastle United. Don't Stop Believin.
Final Prediction - 7th in The Premier League and/or The Carabao Cup. HWTL.