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Newcastle on verge of Premier League history with survival virtually assured
The Magpies were winless in their first 14 games of the season, more than any team who have previously avoided relegation, but now sit ninth.
Newcastle are set to become the first club in Premier League history to stay up after winning none of their first 14 games.
While their survival is not yet mathematically assured, their 43 points is more than any relegated team in a 38-game Premier League season and head coach Eddie Howe, who inherited a side on just five points from 11 games and as many adrift of safety, will be gearing up for another top-flight campaign.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at how the former Bournemouth manager and his players dug their way out of deep trouble.
Turning the tide
Newcastle had to wait until December 4 for their first win of the campaign at the 15th attempt, the fourth of Howe’s tenure, as Callum Wilson’s goal secured a 1-0 victory over Burnley. Their 19 games since have yielded 10 more wins and 33 points to see them into the top half of the table.
The last team to go even 10 games without a first win and stay up was Newcastle themselves under Rafael Benitez in 2018-19, while they will surpass Derby’s 13-game winless start in 2000-01 as the longest for a team who survived. Howe’s side also had just seven points after 14 games – all 10 previous Premier League teams with seven or fewer at that stage were relegated, though teams with eight have survived, most recently the Magpies’ rivals Sunderland in 2013-14.
After more than 14 years of Mike Ashley’s toxic relationship with large sections of the club’s support, any new owner would have been welcomed with open arms, let alone one boasting eye-watering wealth.
Uncomfortable questions over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record remain, but Amanda Staveley’s consortium has swept away much of the misery, re-engaged with an energised fanbase and backed its new head coach with the spending power he needed to revitalise a squad wearied by Ashley’s relative austerity.
Howe’s predecessor Steve Bruce had invested the Magpies’ entire summer war chest in a £25million swoop for midfielder Joe Willock, and remedial action was vital.
England international Kieran Trippier swapped a Champions League campaign with Atletico Madrid for life on Tyneside to herald a £90million January spending spree which saw Chris Wood, Bruno Guimaraes, Dan Burn and loan signing Matt Targett follow. All five have made significant impacts despite Trippier managing only five appearances before suffering a fractured metatarsal.
Cynics may suggest Newcastle have bought safety, but that would be unfair on Howe and his staff. The new faces have added both quality and commitment, but the former Bournemouth boss and his coaches have had to mould them and the men they inherited into a coherent team.
The likes of Emil Krafth, Fabian Schar, Ryan Fraser and Joelinton in particular have hit new heights, with the latter’s four league goals this season all coming in his 22 appearances under Howe and almost matching his six in 78 Premier League games before that. The fact survival has been assured without leading scorer Wilson – absent since the end of December – is all the more impressive.
If it is the collective, rather than any individual, which has carried Newcastle to safety, one man has left the Toon Army dreaming of what might lie ahead.
Brazil midfielder Guimaraes, whose services cost the club an initial £33m which could rise to £40m, had to remain patient as Howe eased him into English football but the 24-year-old has since exploded on to the Premier League scene with a series of high-octane displays and decisive goals to suggest the best is yet to come.