Newcastle may have found FFP solution to save millions as transfer targets get brutal glimpse

It was a night when a visibly frustrated Eddie Howe sighed that Newcastle United will ‘hang our heads’ following the manner of the goals the Magpies conceded in a 3-2 defeat against Manchester United. However, having spoken about the need to take a look at personnel and the mentality of the group, which is as strong as a manager can get in front of the cameras, it was rather telling that the Newcastle boss reserved individual praise for one player: goal scorer Lewis Hall.

“He was terrific,” Howe said after the loss at Old Trafford. “The goal was an unbelievable finish from him from distance. He’s capable of that, but his all-round performance, he looked really good defensively and on the ball. For such a young player, he shows real maturity so delighted with him and how he is progressing.”

On the ball, Hall had more touches (79) than any other player on the field on Wednesday night, including those in red, and also completed the most passes (59). Defensively, too, Hall may feel he could have done more for Rasmus Hojlund’s third, but it was a largely assured showing on a night the youngster made more interceptions than any of his team-mates after working on that aspect of his game with Howe and his staff for several months.

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It felt like another step forward, individually at least, for a player who will cost Newcastle £28m but who could end up saving the Magpies tens of millions more in the long run given his potential. In a summer where Newcastle need to strengthen several positions, there is an argument that a new left-back won’t necessarily be needed, which will enable the black-and-whites to focus on more pressing areas like at centre-back and on the right wing.

Hall certainly looks like a player benefiting from the belief of his manager in a fixed position after starting six games in the last six weeks having previously made just four starts in his first seven months at the club. No wonder Hall has his sights set on ‘impacting the team from the start’ next season.

Having a full pre-season under Howe and his staff will certainly help, as it did for Anthony Gordon last summer, after Hall arrived late in the window last August. Hall barely featured during Chelsea’s own programme of friendlies before his initial loan switch and did not feel himself in his first few weeks at Newcastle. Not only on the training pitches but off them, too.

Hall may be a boyhood Newcastle fan, but the Englishman has admirably never lost touch with his roots in Binfield, whether it was moving out of digs at Chelsea to commute from home or even turning out for his local cricket club during the off-season over the years. Howe previously spoke about how you ‘can’t underestimate the challenges’ that come from properly moving away for the first time at just 19.

Hall has become a better player for the experience – physically, technically and mentally – and the defender was the first to admit that he has ‘overcome things that if I knew were going to happen, I’m not sure I could have done before coming here’.

Hall is not the first signing to have to have a testing start. Dan Burn has seen it first-hand with others and previously told ChronicleLive how new arrivals take ‘a little bit of time to get up to speed’. “You need to know your roles to play in this team,” he said. “You’ve got to think quite a bit. It’s not just something you can step into.”

Lewis Hall and Dan Burn block a pass from Sandro Tonali during a Newcastle United training session
Lewis Hall and Dan Burn block a pass from Sandro Tonali during a Newcastle United training session

Sven Botman, Bruno Guimaraes, Tino Livramento and Anthony Gordon are just some of those noteworthy additions who have been eased in and Hall’s experience is a reminder of the challenge of getting to grips with Howe’s intense demands – even for those British targets who already know the league, the country and, obviously, the language.

“It’s incredibly difficult,” he told NUFC TV as he offered a glimpse of those brutal sessions. “It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. It’s not just physically, either. Physically it’s a very difficult team to play in but tactically, technically, you’ve got to be superb. You’ve got to know exactly what he wants you to do.

“Everyone makes mistakes, but tactically you’ve got to be very aware of everything that’s going on and it’s a very different style to what I played when I was at Chelsea so it took me a while to adapt to that but I felt as time went on, I started to get the hang of it. I’m grateful for everything now and, hopefully, I can continue what I’m doing.”

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