The forgotten factors making NUFC’s recent rise to form all the more incredible…

The points keep on coming in, and the mags are continuing to fly up the table.

Even though Eddie Howe immediately revolutionised the way we played from the moment he came in, the results weren’t matching the performances and relegation still felt real.

It doesn’t anymore.

But the most impressive thing about our run of form right now? We’re doing it without most of our star players.

It’s easy to forget that a sizeable chunk of our recent run of form has been without our top scorer (Wilson), best player (Trippier), difference maker (Saint-Maximin), £35m midfielder (Guimaraes) and club captain (Lascelles).

Callum Wilson getting injured against Man U felt like a proper sucker punch when we were just starting to get into a playing rhythm. He was our only reliable goal source and we only had one other recognised striker that Howe doesn’t seem to favour.

Now, we’re seeing goals come in from all over the pitch – and even though our new striker, Chris Wood, hasn’t hit his first yet, his contribution to the team cannot go unnoticed. His run that led to Fraser’s goal against Brighton was outstanding, and he’s got the ability to hold the ball up and draw defenders out, giving his teammates the opportunity to get in and score. He’s the type of intelligent centre-forward that a lot of people don’t give credit to because he’s not banging in the goals. But he’s certainly having an effect on the team.

Kieran Trippier came in and had an instant impact. Two free kicks in two games and immense displays at the back and going forward were just the injection of life we needed. Then he fractured his foot. I could have genuinely, hand-on-heart cried when I heard he was out for a few months because he’s had such an immediate and far-reaching impact, but dare I say that we even look solid without him? Krafth has even had two absolutely cracking games in a row – his second-half performance against Brighton gave them absolutely nothing when they reached him.

Trippier was the statement senior head in our January signings, and while he was immense in only a few short games, he can’t alone get credit for revolutionising our defence. We all wanted Lascelles dropped for Dan Burn against Everton, but then the skipper put in his best performance in months. He too got injured.

What a revelation big Dan Burn has been since he stepped in. I quietly rated him during his time at Brighton, and he and Dunk were always picks for my fantasy team. But it’s only really when you see him play in black and white that you really pay attention to everything he has to offer. He’s commanding, sharp and intelligent. He can chuck in a cruncher of a tackle – hello, Jarrod Bowen – but remain completely level-headed no matter what happens. Hello again, Jarrod Bowen.

He’s captain material in my eyes. Considering Lascelles is now unlikely to get back into this team, Trippier is my captain and big Dan Burn is my vice (in more ways than one). They both lead from the back – Trippier has that added dash of seniority and experience, but Burn was born to one day be Newcastle United captain. He showed significantly more leadership than Shelvey on Saturday. It wasn’t the latter’s worst day in black and white – not by a long, long shot – but he was quiet when he needed to be roaring, which is exactly what Burn did.

Considering we only got Targett on loan, my expectations weren’t the highest. But he’s been absolutely superb both in defence and going forward. He’s a little more of a flair player than I expected, and he can dance around a defender or two when he wants to. He’s smart, consistent and solid, and has an eye for an attack.

The renewed consistency of Schar is a welcome sight, too. At one point, he looked a bit lost despite being one of the most tactically astute defenders we’ve had in some time. It was cracking to see him on the scoresheet on Saturday.

In the midfield, we’ve been playing so well that our flashiest signing in years can’t get a start. When Bruno comes on, he’s excellent, but I can’t fault Howe for sticking with a winning side and can’t quite believe he’s got a previously weak position looking so, so strong all of a sudden.

There’s not much more to say about Joelinton than has already been said, but it’s the best comeback I’ve seen since…actually, no. it’s the best comeback I’ve ever seen.

He is, of course, closely followed by Ryan Fraser, who looks like a man reborn. He’s miles away from the player who started against Crystal Palace only six months ago who was shattered within 15 minutes. Now, it looks like he could run around the pitch all day for fun like the little pocket rocket he is. Willock comes in at third-best comeback, and his stats are unreal. He’s finally looking like the player we were prepared to pay over £20 million for, and it’s clear that Howe has had a huge personal and professional impact on him.

Jacob Murphy was something of a surprise inclusion at West Ham. A lot of us – myself included – had expected to see some tinkering that would allow Bruno to slot in. But we certainly can’t complain – the lad has been immense, and even if he’s not the best finisher in the world, he’s zipping up and down that wing and creating so many chances in Maxi’s absence.

In all honesty, Allan Saint-Maximin does need to work on his selfishness. But the fact that our most exciting, twinkle-toed (and frustrating) player might struggle to get back into this starting XI speaks volumes. There might be people calling for Murphy’s head, but I thought his first-half display against Brighton was brilliant and it would be harsh to drop him.

It would be harsh to drop anyone – and that says everything when we have so many star players and influential figures sidelined.

We’re playing so well as a team and as individuals that I’ve stopped complaining when Miggy doesn’t get a start. I really don’t think he gets a fair crack of the whip here and supporters can be too critical of him, but I just can’t argue for his inclusion at the minute. Although I do love seeing his happy little face in those dressing room photos.

These performances, our place at the top of the form table and those daft-but-amazing dressing room photos point to one thing. A team united.

It’s probably not something we’ve been able to say since we had the side that last took us out of the Championship.

Long may it continue.

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