After 14 wretched years under the ownership of Michael Ashley, Newcastle United fans – and players – are still pinching themselves at where they find themselves this season.
Eddie Howe’s side start tonight’s match sitting of Champions League Group F and knowing that victory against Borussia Dortmund at a no-doubt raucous St James’ Park will put them in a fine position to reach the knockout stages on their return to the elite competition after 20 years out.
The started this season’s campaign with a battling and highly credible 0-0 draw away to AC Milan, but it was a match described as a sobering reality check for Newcastle, who were made to look inferior by the Italian side. However, any lingering feelings of imposter syndrome were booted high and far on a pulsating night at St James’ Park in the second round of fixtures three weeks ago, when Newcastle dismantled Paris St-Germain 4-1.
One of Newcastle’s local heroes, midfielder Sean Longstaff, admitted this week that he can hardly believe how far the club have come since being bottom of the Premier League two years ago.
Asked if he has to pinch himself, Longstaff, who scored in the win over PSG, said: “Yes, considering probably where me and a lot of the lads were two-and-a-half years ago.
“To think you’d be sitting in this position and doing a press conference before a Champions League game seemed nearly impossible.
“I think now we’re just trying to enjoy the momentum and the good times. A lot of it has been a long time coming and probably something that 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 on one point but dangerous and vastly experienced in the competition.
Their manager Edin Terzic said: “When you look at this group that we’re in, you can see the strength of it. Newcastle are top of the group, but only three points ahead [of Dortmund], only two games are gone, so it’s really tight. We need to produce a very good performance so that we can earn a victory.”