Newcastle welcome back a capacity home crowd for the first time in 18 months, as they begin the season with a visit from West Ham
Two teams who have had quiet summers meet at St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon, as Newcastle United take on West Ham United on the Premier League opening day for the second year running.
12 months ago, an empty London Stadium played host to their residents losing 2-0 to the Magpies, thanks to goals from debutants Callum Wilson and Jeff Hendrick. Fast forward a year and no new faces join those two, but a full capacity St James’ Park will cheer their side on as they begin their third campaign under Steve Bruce.
At this point in time, Newcastle fans would have been hoping for new owners, new players and a new manager at their club, but the only thing different so far this summer is a new kit manufacturer and new shirt numbers for Wilson and Joelinton, with Wilson taking the legendary number nine shirt, now manufactured by Castore.
There is hope that Joe Willock will be joining from Arsenal on a permanent deal, having spent six fruitful months at St James’ Park last season. A fee of £25m has been agreed, but personal terms are not yet finalised, and Willock won’t be over the line in time to make his second Newcastle debut.
Despite qualifying for the Europa League last season and expecting to strengthen their squad this summer, things have been similarly quiet from West Ham. The only incomings have been for Craig Dawson on a permanent contract after his loan from Watford, and the loan signing of Alphonse Areola on loan from PSG to compete with Lukasz Fabianski for the number one shirt at the club.
That means Michail Antonio is once again the only recognised striker in the squad, and there has been no replacement for Jesse Lingard, whose impact in the second half of last season ensured the Hammers will compete in Europe this season.
Injuries could well derail David Moyes’ side if they begin to mount, but going into the Newcastle game, they’ve a relatively clean bill of health. Manuel Lanzini is a slight doubt with a knock, while Angelo Ogbonna and Arthur Masuaku are both unlikely to make it with hamstring and knee problems. Everyone else is OK though, including Declan Rice, Thomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal, who were all involved in the later stages of this summer’s Euro 2020.
As for Newcastle, Steve Bruce will be without three first-teamers, two of which are goalkeepers. Martin Dubravka has a foot injury that hasn’t recovered after the Euros, while Karl Darlow was hit hard by COVID 19, and is still suffering from the effects of it. That means there could be a Premier League debut for Freddie Woodman, who has been between the sticks for most of pre-season, and is coming off the back of a fantastic season at Swansea City, in which he proved to be one of the top goalkeepers outside the top flight.
Paul Dummett is the other man missing for Newcastle, as he recovers from a calf problem. That means it’s likely to be the trio of Jamaal Lascelles, Federico Fernandez and Fabian Schar in Bruce’s beloved back five system, with Matt Ritchie and Jacob Murphy as the wing-backs. Allan Saint-Maximin has had a full pre-season and is ready to go, while Wilson, who missed most of Newcastle’s last 10 games last season, is also fully fit and available.
Newcastle United take on West Ham United at St James’ Park on Sunday, August 15th. Kick-off is at 2pm.