A few familiar faces will head back to their old stomping ground on Saturday evening as Newcastle United embark on the 694-mile round trip to Bournemouth and back for their Premier League encounter.
Manager Eddie Howe will return to the club he took from League Two to the Premier League, as will his assistant Jason Tindall, who was Cherries manager in his own right in 2020. The pair will rightly be greeted with a warm smile and applause, given the work they put into resurrecting the club from the brink of relegation out of the Football League.
Howe’s return will no doubt steal the headlines but in recent years the connection between the two clubs has stretched beyond the dugout. In fact, Newcastle have plucked the best of what Bournemouth have to offer way before the days of the PIF takeover. And they are still reaping the rewards of doing so.
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Matt Ritchie was a star in his three and a half seasons on the south coast as he carried Bournemouth to back-to-back promotions and shone as they established themselves in the top flight. In 2016 he surprised many by leaving the Vitality Stadium for Newcastle, who were then in the Championship, and seven years on, he remains in the north-east.
It was Rafa Benitez who brought him to the club as he got another Championship title to his name and his role has changed over the years. For £10m, a hefty investment under Mike Ashley, he began as a winger, but has retreated into the wing-back and full-back positions. Even so, they’ve got over 150 appearances out of him, as injuries in recent years have blighted his gametime.
Ryan Fraser’s Bournemouth departure in 2020 was less magnanimous. His contract was up and he had his eyes on a move before the Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to Premier League football. With Howe in charge and the Cherries deep in a relegation battle, Fraser refused to sign a new contract to play for the club as he didn’t want an injury to spoil his move away from the club. Bournemouth were relegated by one point, Howe left the club, and Fraser signed a five-year deal at Newcastle.
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It’s not been a roaring success. 18 months later and he already looks like a spare part, with first team minutes limited this season as the Magpies squad gets stronger and stronger. The five-year deal Steve Bruce handed him looks a little ambitious now and Newcastle will have to cut their losses at some stage, with many fans left hoping he would be moved on in January. That didn’t materialise and Fraser has work to do to make his way into a matchday squad, let alone onto the pitch itself.
On the playing side of things, the biggest success for Newcastle has been Callum Wilson. He joined that same summer for £20m as Bournemouth were forced to face the realities of relegation, but even the most pessimistic Geordie must be delighted with how he has turned out. Having proven himself as a Premier League goalscorer at the Vitality, Wilson has got better and better as the quality of player has improved around him.
He has always suffered with injury issues but last season, even partially under Steve Bruce, he scored eight goals in 18 matches. This season he’s managed to be a key part of Newcastle’s revival with seven goals and three assists in 16 Premier League games - only Miguel Almiron has more goal contributions.
Wilson joined at the end of a different era. Newcastle's main successes have come from the new signings in defence, but the likes of Almiron and Wilson have stepped up a level this term. Even though Howe spent a club-record £63m on Alexander Isak this summer, Wilson has remained the preferred number nine. That’s credit not only to his development, but his ability and composure in front of goal.
The south coast has been a reliable pillaging post for Newcastle in recent times, especially when you consider their transfer failings under Mike Ashley. Howe and Tindall might steal the headlines, but Callum Wilson is the ripest cherry pick of the lot, now flourishing in the north-east.
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