After 14 miserable years under Michael Ashley’s ownership, Newcastle United fans – and players – are still pinching themselves at where they are this season.
Eddie Howe’s side begin Champions League Group F action this evening and knowing that victory against Borussia Dortmund at an undoubtedly noisy St James’ Park will put them in a good position to reach the last 16 of final on their return to elite competition after 20 years.
They began this season’s campaign with a very credible 0-0 draw against AC Milan, but it was a match described as a sobering reality check for Newcastle, who were made inferior by Italian team. However, any lingering feelings of imposter syndrome were exacerbated on a thrilling evening at St James’ Park in the second round three weeks ago, when Newcastle dismantled Paris St-Germain 4-1.
One of Newcastle’s local heroes, midfielder Sean Longstaff, admitted this week he finds it hard to believe how far the club have come since being bottom of the Premier League two years ago.
Asked if he should pinch himself, Longstaff, who scored in the win over PSG, replied: “Yeah, probably considering where me and a lot of the guys were two years ago years and a half.
“To think you would sit in that position and do a press conference before a Champions League match seemed almost impossible.
“I think now we’re just trying to enjoy the momentum and the good times. A lot of this has taken time and it’s probably something we didn’t think would happen, so for us to be in this position now is a real privilege.
Tonight’s visitors, Borussia Dortmund, are bottom of the group with one point but dangerous and very experienced in the competition.
Their manager Edin Terzic said: “When you look at the group we are in, you can see its strength. Newcastle are top of the group, but with only a three-point lead (over Dortmund) there are only two games left, so it’s really tight. We need to put in a very good performance to be able to get a victory.