Last updated on 29 minutes ago29 minutes ago.From the section Newcastle
As ‘Hey Jude’ belted out at a triumphant St James’ Park following Newcastle’s 3-1 win over Everton , Allan Saint-Maximin could not help but join in.
The Magpies winger held his arms aloft and sang the Beatles hit with fans as they all savoured a moment they had been waiting for since the club’s takeover in October.
There have been many new beginnings following the £305m purchase by a Saudi Arabian-backed consortium but as the Frenchman soaked up the good will after a performance which Everton boss Frank Lampard called “unplayable”, there was a sense this was different.
Despite understandable anxiety from supporters as the new owners promised future riches in the midst of a relegation battle, manager Eddie Howe has kept faith in the prospect of survival.
And he was rewarded with a display that was as much about his transformation of the team as head coach as it was the new signings recruited in January.
“It’s funny how quickly the questions switch,” Howe joked in the post-match media conference when it was noted that Newcastle, now out of the relegation zone, were only six points off 10th place.
But he admitted that sealing successive wins for the first time this season “changes the mood and feeling” and said unity in the club was “everything”.
For a team that has struggled all campaign, January’s 1-0 win at Leeds before the team set off for a training and bonding trip to Saudi Arabia offered hope, but it was very much a result achieved by showing resilience and hanging on.
Most fans believed that the arrival since then of Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes for £40m, former Brighton centre-back Dan Burn for £13m and left-back Matt Targett on loan from Aston Villa would take them to a new level.
But the fact that only Targett started against Everton, with Guimaraes coming on as a substitute late on, showed the team is already on an upward trajectory as a result of Howe’s methods.
Howe said the visit to Saudi Arabia, where players combined training with camel rides and trips to the sand dunes, meant the team “returned a fitter and much closer group”.
Skipper Jamaal Lascelles said the squad were “in the best place we’ve been all season” – and it was not a reference to their position in the table.
Against Everton, he typified Newcastle’s approach – a timely performance, with some believing Burn’s arrival was a sign the much-criticised captain was on his way out.
And his own goal to give Lampard’s side the lead added to a list of hapless moments this season. But within the space of two minutes, he made up for that error by crashing a header against the crossbar, which led to Everton’s Mason Holgate scoring in his own net.
It felt like a turning point, with Howe praising his captain afterwards and saying that the addition of the likes of Kieran Trippier to the squad had helped share leadership responsibilities around.
It sounded like smart management, as did Howe’s decision to stick with the bulk of the team that beat Leeds.
Many fans were left disappointed that Guimaraes did not start, especially after he had exuded confidence when telling the media the club could become “a world power”.
But Howe insisted he had to reward the team that won well at Elland Road. “To change the team when players don’t deserve to be left out is a dangerous thing,” he said.
“Bruno will be a top player for us but you have to watch and learn when you come to a new team.”
That is something Trippier has done in a very short space of time and is a sign that, at £12m, he could yet be Newcastle’s most important piece of recruitment.
After several assured displays that have added experience and calm to the Newcastle defence, the England international got his moment of glory at the other end of the pitch, a trademark free-kick in front of the Gallowgate End making the three points safe with 10 minutes to go.
A two-goal cushion as the match wound down represented uncharted territory for Newcastle this season, even if Howe could understandably not relax and enjoy it.
But the goal, and the performance, spoke of a future in which Newcastle can potentially start to look up the table and put the anger, despair and fear that have beset supporters both before and since the takeover behind them – perhaps for good.