Newcastle shine thanks to aptly-named goalscorer and phenomenal Bruno Guimaraes 12 days ago
Eddie Howe

Nottingham Forest struggled to cope with Newcastle, who shared the burden in lieu of an attacking signing. Eddie Howe has worked wonders there.

On reflection, Eddie Howe absolutely does look like the kind of Football Manager player who would take advantage of potentially the most lucrative takeover in the sport’s history by signing Nick Pope, making Matt Targett’s loan permanent and bringing in a £30m centre-half who starts the season on the bench.

That is intended as no slight. It is to his coaching credit that Howe has resisted temptation and ventured into this brave new world of a first full campaign as Newcastle boss with only four of his own signings in the starting XI to host promoted Nottingham Forest.

It sums up their current situation that three of those players were a goalkeeper and two defenders, with the other a box-to-box midfielder.

And it captures the mood that Newcastle put any latent transfer window frustration to one side with a stunningly straightforward victory, sans shiny new striker.

Howe has been a paragon of patience when it comes to forward thinking. January interest in Hugo Ekitike was renewed ahead of this campaign but when the move collapsed, Newcastle’s manager spoke only of a need to “realign”.

That message was echoed when Jack Harrison and Moussa Diaby became publicly unattainable to even Newcastle’s blank chequebook. “You have to be adaptable,” Howe said, practicing what he preached against Forest with an attack that belied unthinkable riches.

Allan Saint-Maximin thrilled and faltered in roughly equal measure. Callum Wilson hassled and harried his way to another opening day goal. Miguel Almiron dovetailed wonderfully, even if he was perennially guilty of taking one touch too many.

With the unfairly brilliant Bruno Guimaraes supplying the bullets, Joe Willock supporting from deep and Joelinton continuing to thrive in central midfield, this was a true team effort.

And the importance of dividing the burden throughout the team was aptly underlined by the name of the opening scorer. After almost an hour of impressive but ultimately fruitless play, Fabian Schar struck gold from 30 yards to establish a lead that was never in jeopardy.

Every outfield starter made at least one key pass for the hosts. Each of them bar Targett had a shot. Forest were tidy at times but created almost nothing and were torn to various pieces. It will be a long season on this basis.

Yet not every opponent will be as well-drilled, organised and collaborative as Howe’s Newcastle. Not only without that headline striker signing but also with their most expensive summer acquisition watching on from the bench until an introductory stoppage-time cameo, the hosts gave a 50,000-strong St James’ Park a teasing taste of what might be to come.

It might even be that any new centre-forward goes the way of Sven Botman, at least initially, in being made to wait their turn. For Newcastle to have that sort of luxury still feels peculiar and the circumstances behind it are obvious, but it striking just how understated their improvement has been.

Howe would do well to take stock of what he has achieved thus far. This is slowly turning into one of those saves.