The FOUR Newcastle players who impressed me most in Sunday’s 3-0 win vs Sheffield Utd

Well, what a way to return and for once we can all wake-up this morning with a smile on our faces and looking at things in a more optimistic light. Although I suspect there’s a few who woke up with a bit of a hangover, not least the SUFC defence.

The Toon lit up our black and white eyes and raised the Geordie blood flowing through our hearts with a top-class performance that is without doubt the best performance of the returning teams so far.

I’m not going to take any credit away from their excellent team performance and the sublime second-half performance. I know it was against ten-men but this was a team 7th in the table. A team that had the second-best defensive record in the PL and one that many were calling the best surprise of the season.

With 8 games to go Brucey’s Barmy Army may well take that title away from them. I say Brucey’s Barmy Army through gritted teeth because I’m still convinced, he’s not the man to take us forward. He’ll do a solid job and is but he can’t take us to the level we crave. But credit where credit’s due he seems to have worked out a formula that works for his squad and never was that more evident than it was on Sunday. There had been signs as we slipped into lockdown that things were changing but the way we roared out of it was brilliant.

Here’s the FOUR players that I think were particularly worthy of praise:

Isaac Hayden

My Man of the Match will be announced last but the first one I want to mention is Isaac Hayden. It wasn’t just his new hairstyle that seemed to suit him. The way the team is now set-up suits all his attributes and abilities too.

He was superb. Covered acres of ground. Won the ball so often. Made interceptions at will and then does what he does so well – simply giving the ball to some one else to create.

As good a defensive midfield performance you could wish to see.

Joelinton

Big Joe. He definitely benefited from no crowd – I think if he’d missed that chance in the first half in front of 52,000, he might not have recovered! But he did and how well he recovered and responded.

He was responsible for both of Egan’s yellow cards even if I thought neither of them should have been booked for what was little more than handbags it may even have been the moment of the match as the second yellow was very much deserved.

Yes, he missed that chance but it was still great to see him running in to the right spaces and actually having the chance. Let’s face it, whether he’s a centre-forward or not it was great to see him on the end of things and he so deserved his goal which he even started himself.

Matt Ritchie

Mr Magic Hat. The one selection that may have caused controversy. Boy did he ever justify his place.

He made the first albeit after a horrendous error by Stevens and smashed home the second, credit to Rose’s overlapping run there as well.

Ritchie was at his nagging annoying best. One of those displays that makes us love him and opposition fans hate him. The best compliment I can pay Matt is not my own. Reading Lee Ryder in The Chronicle he said he could be heard clearly in the sixth tier of the stand barking out his orders and ensuring that everyone knew what they were about.

That’s one of the great things about Ritchie and why Bruce makes him an automatic choice.

Allan Saint-Maximin

But Man of The Match? Well, you’ll have worked it out by now. Wor Maxi! What a player he is.

He brings us to our feet wherever we watch from. So much anticipation every time he gets the ball and he must be a nightmare to play against. His pace and tricky are fantastic.

He just seems to be getting better and better and seems to love being in The Toon and part of the Newcastle life. He cost around £20m. How much would Ashley like to sell him for now?

Hopefully, that’s not something we’re going to have to worry about! Take a bow son, you were exceptional.

Elsewhere (they all deserve a mention after our biggest league win of the season), Dubravka had his fourth clean sheet at home in a row. It must also have been his quietest and I doubt his kit even needed washing.

The back four were as solid as they could have been. After a slightly uncertain start, particularly from Rose, who was severely tested and targeted by the Blades, they combined superbly to look as watertight and as safe as I’ve ever seen them.

Shelvey was influential. Yes, at times he tries to play the killer pass once too often but the way he sprays the ball about and always looks forward is refreshing to see and rare amongst English midfielders.

Wor Miggy was a constant menace to the opposition defence. His pace is astonishing at times and his work-rate outstanding. He also becomes an even better player when those around him are lifted by his efforts.

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