Newcastle and relegation scraps are something of an inevitability these days, but the introduction of a certain Arsenal loanee ultimately propelled the Magpies clear of the bottom three and into a fifth successive season of Premier League football.
Bruce’s men were languishing down in 17th place with only nine games left to play, but the heroics of Joe Willock against Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, West Ham United and Sheffield United – to name but a few – saw Newcastle win three of their final four games and finish as high as 12th.
With the frustration of stalled takeover talks continuing to rumble on in the background, Newcastle’s pre-season kicked off with a 1-0 defeat to York City
, but the Magpies responded with successes over Doncaster Rovers, Burton Albion and Norwich City, beating the latter 3-0 in front of the returning St James’ Park crowd.
However, to say that it has been an underwhelming summer of transfer movement would be an understatement, with three academy prospects representing the club’s only incomings so far, although a £25m deal for Willock is still expected to come to fruition.
Having become synonymous with hefty injury lists, the absences of Bruce’s two first-choice goalkeepers will certainly not aid a team who only kept two Premier League clean sheets at home all season last term, while West Ham are out to right the wrongs of the opening day 11 months ago.
The irrepressible David Moyes machine will now attempt to prove their worth on the European stage, as the Hammers’ sixth-placed finish in the 2020-21 season saw them make the Europa League group stages for the first time ever.
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For a short while, Champions League football seemed to be on the agenda for West Ham, but defeats to Newcastle United, Chelsea and Everton crushed those dreams for a side who – like Newcastle – were inspired by a six-month loan signing intent on reigniting his career.
Jesse Lingard travelled to the capital after enduring a painfully difficult first half of the season at Old Trafford, where his opportunities were few and far between under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but with 14 goal contributions in 16 games for the Hammers (nine strikes, five assists), his role in their European charge proved invaluable.