Newcastle notes from New Jersey: Anderson impresses, fan engagement, fitness and transfers


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Eddie Howe declared himself “exhausted,” and he had not been playing.

Newcastle United’s tour to the United States has been productive on and off the pitch — three games unbeaten, connecting or reconnecting to their supporters — but it has also been brutal; hot, humid and intense, rattling between three cities. And now? “I’ll probably have a very good sleep,” the head coach said. “And then I’ll be watching this game back.” Because of course he will.

Friday night’s 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion brought a positive, dramatic end to Newcastle’s participation in the Premier League’s Summer Series, but there has been a different feel to their summer camp this year. They have spread the gospel in fertile territory. They have sweated and worked, but there has been none of the quiet, focused, intimacy of Austria 12 months ago.

It has felt like a big deal. It has felt loud.

As their trip to Philadelphia, Atlanta and Harrison ends, here are The Athletic’s Notes from New Jersey.

Elliot Anderson is in the frame for Newcastle’s opening league match against Aston Villa, Howe said, and so he should be.

The 20-year-old midfielder has scored four goals in pre-season, including two against Brighton, and he and Lewis Miley, 17, have been the standout performers in the U.S.. The two young homegrown products were watched by Steve Harper, the club’s academy director, in the Red Bull Arena; suddenly it feels like a bit of a production line. 

It also feels like a big season for Anderson, who supporters serenade as the “Geordie Maradona”. He has started six matches for Newcastle in all competitions and now looks ready. “He’s really developing and his confidence levels have improved,” Howe said. “The biggest tribute I can give to Elliot is his fitness levels. When we came back to training and did our testing he came through the fittest by some distance. So he obviously looked after himself in the summer.

Anderson’s late brace beat Brighton in Harrison, New Jersey (Photo: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

“He was very committed to his personal programme and looks stronger, leaner and quicker. You don’t score goals like that in the last minute, with the strength of his legs and his upper body to go past an opponent, if you’re not super-fit. Especially in this heat. Those goals don’t come by accident; they come for a reason, and that’s down to him. 

“He is in my thoughts for Villa. The team is never set. Someone asked me the other day if I’d picked my team already, but no way. There are still more games to come and you want players to not change your opinion, but force their way into your eyesight. Elliot has certainly done that.”

Miley has done the same.

He is tall and statuesque and unruffled; after playing a full match against Chelsea in Atlanta two days earlier, he was a substitute for Brighton and was introduced when Newcastle were labouring, allowing Matt Ritchie to move outside. He immediately brought a calmness to the team. “He came on and added a composure to our midfield,” Howe said. “He showed a real maturity to come into a difficult situation.” Astonishing, really.



Newcastle’s Howe predicts Miley will break into first team

‘Struck by lightning, in the best of ways’

The tailgate outside the stadium, 6pm. It is smaller than in Philly, but there are beers and potato chips, songs and laughter. Peter from Verona, New Jersey, is here with his boys Conor and Schuyler. He had been at the last game, too (we met and chatted on the plane back north). “We were always planning on coming to this match because we live 20 minutes away, but my wife and children allowed me on a whim to fly down to Atlanta,” he says. 

He described how it has been to see Newcastle, his team, up close and personal. “I honestly felt like I was struck by lightning, in the best of ways,” he said.

New fans, old fans, fans by birth, fans by choice, fans full stop; these meetings and mingling have been memorable. 

The same old question; why Newcastle?

“I started coaching soccer and decided I had to pick a club,” Peter said. “I’m originally from Philly and a big Philly sports fan, which means I’m full of self-loathing, so I did a bunch of research and honestly felt like Newcastle found me. They were relegated a couple of years later. I was just blown away by the culture and the history, the history of the club and the region and here we are, 17 years later.”

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Peter, Conor and Schuyler in tailgate heaven (Photo: The Athletic)

Post-takeover, post last season, with fourth place in the Premier League behind them and the Champions League ahead, self-loathing is replaced by love. 

“It’s been surreal,” said Peter. “There’s hope. It’s obviously like a line of demarcation for the club but there’s something about the transition that has also felt authentically Newcastle. I’m not from there, but that’s just my understanding as a fan. 

The caveat is unnecessary. Not from Newcastle but part of Newcastle, as much as you or me or anyone else. 

The frenetic schedule may permit a fast start

Howe has a quirk. He maps out his training sessions the night before deploying them, allowing him to be flexible and last-minute, to take into account specific fitness and circumstances and tailor-make his drills.

He has been able to do less of that in the U.S., where Newcastle’s involvement with the Premier League has meant a far more structured calendar, more demands on everybody’s time, player and community events to attend. 

The benefits are exposure and name recognition, competitive matches against strong opponents and getting a toehold into a valuable market which has been dominated by the traditional big clubs. The long-term hope is that more people follow Peter’s example — minus the self-loathing — that Newcastle grow their global brand and, in turn, grow their revenue. The downsides are fatigue and a lack of intricacy on the practice pitches.

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There has been a lot of “noise” around Newcastle’s pre-season preparations (Photo: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

“You’re used to your rhythm and habits when you’re at home so it will be good to get back to those routines we’re used to,” Howe said. “The travelling is tiring, plane journeys and coach journeys, but I have to credit the players for dealing with that with no fuss. They’re well looked after and we’re very grateful for what we’re given, but then you have to turn up and perform and I think they have.

“There has been a lot of noise. It’s the polar opposite to Austria last summer, which was very quiet. We could control things that we did a lot more there and here we have been following a schedule where we don’t really have a choice of what we do. But there are pros and cons. The games this year have been a big test for us and I think that will then speed up our ability to perform early season.

“We are going to have to start fast looking at our fixture list.

“The camp been really good for us. The facilities were high-class, the opposition has been high-class. The support, the organisation — everything — has been brilliant. The players have really committed to everything we’ve asked them to do and we go back united and fitter and now we’ve got a key two-week period leading up to our first game to improve on all areas.

“There will be a lot of training now. We haven’t done much training for the last four or five days so it will be good to get back iron out a few things.”

There is work to be done in the market

Another signing or two would not go amiss.

While Newcastle’s results have been decent in the U.S., their squad has been stretched, highlighting a lack of depth and pace in defence. Fabian Schar, the Switzerland centre-half, has had a scan on the hamstring he irritated against Chelsea in Atlanta and, while the results have showed no lasting damage, he is expected to miss a few days of training. 

For stretches in the 2-1 win over Brighton they struggled to gain and keep possession and found it difficult to escape their opponents’ aggressive press. These games can be a mirage, good or bad, but there have been elements of toil in all of them and they still have work to do in the transfer market, which should become less angsty now that the paperwork for Allan Saint-Maximin’s $30million (£23.4m) move to Al Ahli has been completed.

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Newcastle could still do with additions ahead of the new campaign (Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images for Premier League)

Howe’s ideal scenario is to have two teams of equal quality at his disposal, but Newcastle remain some way short of it.

“We haven’t had that because we are missing some very important players like Joe Willock and Sean Longstaff so, no, we feel we need a bit more strength and we are working hard to get that,” Howe said. “Things never come easy so we are prepared to be patient.”

But first, a bit of shuteye.



Tailgating in Philadelphia and a place called home: Newcastle in the U.S.

(Top photo: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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