After failing to break into our first-team plans after a few eye-catching loans spells, local lad Adam Armstrong completed a £1.75m move to Blackburn Rovers in August 2018.
Two years on, he returns to St James’ for tonight’s Carabao Cup clash with a big point to prove and on the back of a stunning season at Ewood Park.
To get a better idea of his impressive rise to form over the past 12 months – which has seen him bag 19 goals and 7 assists in all comps – I reached out to Rovers season ticket holder Chris Martin (@ChrisMartin_93) to get the lowdown on the man Alan Pardew once described as his ‘best finisher’ at Newcastle United.
Here’s what Chris told us ahead of his intriguing return to Tyneside tonight:
“I remember we were all buzzing when he signed because he was impressive when we last had him – plus Tony Mowbray managed him at Coventry when he had that hot streak, so we were confident that he could get the best out of him. And while he’s been decent out on the wing, he’s really thrived since being moved into the central role. We’re playing 4-3-3 at the moment which he does well in.
“We had him on loan for the second half of our 2017/18 season in League One so we knew how good he was. There was some concern (albeit very little) about whether he’d be able to step up to the Championship or not… although some of that was based off his loan at Bolton where he was a wing back for some reason! But there was a lot of positivity on our side because we knew how good he was and could be.
“£1.75m was an absolute steal even then – we knew we were paying for potential, but nobody thought you’d sell for that little amount unless there was a significant bonus! Assumedly he didn’t fit into your plans so the gaffer just wanted rid of him.
Even then a lot of us thought was an absolute bargain! I’d have thought there’d be a hefty sell on clause or something to offset the small fee – but it’s Mike Ashley, so who knows?
“The real defining moment for him was Bradley Dack’s injury; he’d been played on the wing for pretty much his entire spell here and very rarely got a proper chance up front. But when Dack got injured he stepped up to be the main man in the second half of last season.
“He’s a natural goalscorer and he always seems to get himself in the right areas. Definitely the best finisher at the club. But he also gets involved in the build up play so he’s not just hanging around waiting for the ball. It helps that he’s quick as well so he can get in those positions and get past defenders. He can hit them from long range, too: our goal of the season award was basically just him! Seriously, check out his goal away at Cardiff if you haven’t already. Audacious stuff!
“Realistically, if he has another season like last and we don’t get promoted then we won’t be keeping him. He’ll want to play Premier League football (and the pessimist in me says that he could be gone within a year or two if we don’t at least challenge for promotion). But I also don’t envision him kicking off publicly over it just because he seems to have a good head on his shoulders and doesn’t appear to have a bad attitude or anything like that. And honestly,
“I’d expect Rovers to ask for at least £20m for him just based off how important he is to the team – as well as the fact that we don’t really have any other regular goalscorers!
“In short, he IS that good – and if he scores tonight, don’t be surprised!“
So, he may be back on Tyneside for one night only, but it may not be long until he’s playing Premier League football every weekend if he keeps this up at Blackburn.
A fascinating read and great to see one of our local lads and Academy graduates making waves in the professional game – even if it makes you wonder if he was sold too soon.
Let’s hope he doesn’t come back to haunt us tonight!