2020: Newcastle United's chaotic year in review
The Gallowgate End is typically a cacophony of sound, but for the majority of 2020, it has laid eerily silent. (Image from Getty Images)

The plot of the soap opera that is Newcastle United has taken an unprecedented number of dramatic twists and turns during 2020.

To add to the ongoing chaos of the coronavirus pandemic,  Newcastle fans have had to endure a collapsed £300 million Saudi-led takeover, two bitter cup quarter-final defeats and consistent mundane performances that have resulted in serious fan unrest against manager Steve Bruce.  

Rather fittingly, the fans will end the year on an excruciating cliffhanger as they await the revival of the takeover saga. 

Let us take this time to review the highs and lows of Newcastle United's bizarre 2020. 

Newcastle's experience with Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic has dominated the public discourse for the entirety of 2020, so it seems to be an apt starting point for a review of Newcastle's year. 

'Project Restart' went smoothly for all sides that were involved, and there were no mass outbreaks reported.

Unfortunately, Newcastle were the first side to suffer an outbreak just as the 2020/21 season was getting into full swing. 

Their training ground was forced to shut and their fixture against Aston Villa postponed after it was believed that up to ten players had contracted the virus. 

Nearly a month on, the magpies are still suffering from the affects of the outbreak. Isaac Hayden and Federico Fernandez both spoke of the fatigue that the virus has left them with, which has prevented both players from completing 90 minutes on more than one occasion. 

Star players Jamaal Lascelles and Allan Saint-Maximin are still suffering from 'long-term COVID' and are yet to return to action.

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A year of missed opportunities

The sombre football-less Easter months were buoyed by pure excitement for Newcastle fans as news broke that Mike Ashley had negotiated a £300 million deal to sell the club to the Saudi Arabian public investment fund.  

The vibrant city of Newcastle upon Tyne may have laid dormant during the testing months of the first lockdown, but the spirit of thousands of locals was buoyed by sheer excitement; they were going to get their club back. 

Ashley was out and in were the Saudi PIF, Amanda Staveley and the Reuben Brothers. Fans were promised colossal transfer budgets, a new training ground and investment into the city. The fans role in all of this? Sit, wait and let the good times commence. 

So that's what Newcastle fans did. They waited, and waited, and then waited some more. In fact, they waited for a total of 13 excruciating weeks. 

When an announcement finally arrived, it was the news that every Geordie had been dreading. The had been forced to withdraw their bid as a result of unsolvable frustrations with the Premier League's Owner's and Director's test.

The hopes and dreams of every Newcastle United fan were washed away in an instant. As the year draws to a close, and with takeover talk now silent, fans are left to wonder just what might have been. What should have been. 

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Newcastle United also suffered missed opportunities on the pitch, too. Steve Bruce was able to guide Newcastle to two cup quarter-finals in 2020, but his side tasted bitter defeat on both occasions. 

The first quarter-final was in the FA Cup against Manchester City, played during the restart in June. The odds were stacked against Newcastle from the first whistle, but they kept themselves in the game and even after Kevin De Bruyne opened the scoring, they were still very much in the tie. 

On 65 minutes, Allan Saint-Maximin found Dwight Gayle with a sharp low delivery. All the forward had to do was cushion the ball into an empty net, but he blazed the ball over the bar. Just a minute later, Raheem Sterling doubled the away side's advantage, and Newcastle were out of the FA cup. 

The second cup quarter-final, played on the 22nd December, was a sickening blow for all those associated with the club. Newcastle faced up against Brentford F.C, and their manager Thomas Frank named a second-string team for the tie. 

Steve Bruce had named his strongest XI. Before kick-off, Newcastle were expected to make light work of the lower league opposition. In reality, the opposite occurred. Newcastle were played off the park by Brentford for 90 minutes, and when Josh Dasilva opened the scoring on 66 minutes, Newcastle had no response. They crashed out of the Carabao Cup with a whimper. 

Two opportunities for silverware wasted, and Newcastle fans began to turn on Steve Bruce as a result. 

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Excellent summer business

In a strange turn of events, Mike Ashley showed some serious ambition in the transfer market in 2020. 

During the summer window, he forked out £20 million for Callum Wilson and £15 million for Jamal Lewis. Ryan Fraser and Jeff Hendrick also came in on free transfers. 

Lewis, Hendrick, Fraser and Mark Gillespie (a third choice goalkeeper signed from Motherwell) have all had slow starts to their Newcastle careers, but Callum Wilson has proved to be a revelation on Tyneside. 

In just 13 Premier League games, he has scored  eight goals and registered three assists.

It may have taken more than 12 months, but Newcastle have finally found a lethal striker to fill the shoes of Salomon Rondon. 

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Newcastle's Player of the Year

Newcastle United's 2020 was categorized by mediocrity. Their football was mundane and as for their results? Average. They finished the 2019/20 campaign in 13th and they now lay 14th in the Premier League as the year draws to a close. 

There was one man that often acted as a solitary shining light throughout the calendar year. Newcastle's mercurial Frenchman Allan Saint-Maximin was the one player to bring excitement to Newcastle's pedestrian philosophy in 2020. 

On numerous occasions this year, he single handedly won Newcastle games with his sensational individual performance, as well as goals. In games against Burnley and Southampton in the Premier League, this was especially the case. In the FA Cup, his stunning solo effort meant that Newcastle were able to squeeze past Oxford United in extra time. 

The 23-year-old's early career has been marred by injuries, but he has still been able to salvage five goals and eight assists. 

He is Newcastle United's prize asset and a bright future awaits him. 

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Newcastle's Win of the Year

It may not have been pretty, but Newcastle United's 1-0 win against Chelsea F.C in January represented everything right with Steve Bruce's magpies. 

Newcastle had just just 30% possession and two shots on target during the game, but their dogged defensive mentality meant that with just one minute remaining, they were in with a chance of winning the game. 

They did exactly that! Isaac Hayden headed the ball into the net from a long Saint-Maximin cross and Newcastle saw out the remaining moments to claim all three points. 

This game was also the last time that Newcastle United would win inside a full St James' Park in 2020. The atmosphere that night was electric and the fans' ability to cheer their side on to the very last played a pivotal role in Newcastle being able to win that game. 

Let's hope that the Newcastle faithful can return to their home en-masse at some point in 2021. 

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Newcastle's Worst Loss of the Year 

The aforementioned 1-0 defeat to Brentford was undeniably Newcastle's worst performance this year. 

From minute one, they were un-inventive and uninspiring. The player's lack of desire to win the game was frightening. 

The defeat also acted as a breaking point in the relationship between Newcastle fans and manager Steve Bruce. He labelled their reaction to the defeat as 'ridiculous histrionics' and in the days following, #BruceOut was trending on Twitter. 

It was a turgid performance and the aftermath was tough to watch. It will be a long time until the fans forgive Steve Bruce for that terrible defeat.

They don't expect a team that wins, but they demand a team that tries. 

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