Newcastle have a totally different identity to last season, but there is room for the same optimism 
Newcastle United's English head coach Steve Bruce (centre left) congratulates goalscorer Newcastle United's English midfielder Matthew Longstaff (centre right) after the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James's Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on October 6, 2019. - Newcastle won the game 1-0. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

As the highlights of last season's Premier League campaign hit the Sky channels recently, a flashback was brought to Easter Weekend when Newcastle United blew Southampton away at St James' Park.

It was a victory that pretty much-guaranteed safety and fans for once could relax with three games remaining and the team sitting on 41 points. 

The football was good, the mood was a lot better than it had been but ultimately the future was uncertain, and that was a worry.

All change 

Since that April day, so much has transformed at the club that it feels like a lifetime ago when Ayoze Perez blasted his first-ever hat-trick.

The weather was fine, St James' Park was full, two centre forwards were seemingly in their prime and even the black and white strip looked vastly different.

The reality was though, that it had taken months to get to that position of refuge following a season-long struggle for goals and points but United finished with a late-season flurry. 

Fast-forward a few months and a new head coach had assembled his new-look squad at Benton ahead of the 2019/20 season, and the club was in another transition.  

Promise followed by hostility

The promise of the end of last season and a decent pre-season under Steve Bruce was not enough to convince the bulk of supporters, and hopes seemed to fade rather quickly.

A gallant defeat to Arsenal but a disaster away to Norwich City brought fears to reality and Bruce and his coaches were faced with a mountain to climb to restore any sort of faith.

The optimism from that Southampton game had evaporated.  

Handing the job to Bruce whose last two jobs came in the Championship in an attempt to draw crowds back amid the depths of the current ownership, was a brave move. 

A shift in the tide

This season has already had a bit of everything, with extreme lows of Leicester City and Norwich coupled with the equal highs of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United especially, with a few ordinary results chucked in too.

The general shape of the team remains similar, utilising United's luxury range of central defenders but finding the balance in midfield and attack has proved tough. 

Getting back to basics and five at the back after Leicester was a must, and after finding some well-needed recent form Bruce's next objective will be to get his front three firing. 

United said goodbye to their front-line partnership and traded them for raw ability and young blood in Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin, another gamble to add to the list but their attacking play is improving.

Future unknown

Whatever happens at Aston Villa in just over a week's time, Bruce has earned himself some time and more importantly some respect among large groups of fans. 

There is new identity with a completely different image of last season - the emergence of the even younger Matty Longstaff and the throwback factor of Andy Carroll reinforces that.

But maybe there is hope after all.