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Opinion

Looks like Adam Armstrong is on his way back to the top

2 months ago
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In the summer of 2018, Adam Armstrong made the difficult decision to leave his boyhood club and sign for Blackburn Rovers in a deal worth £1.5 million.

It was a disappointing end to what many hoped and thought could have been a long and successful career for a local boy at Newcastle United.

Armstrong had broken into the first team picture under Alan Pardew at just 17 years of age and his stocky build and style of play inevitably drew comparisons with Wayne Rooney.

The hype continued to grow as the youngster impressed at international level as he progressed through the age groups and the next step for him was a first loan spell – he would spend the 2015-16 season on loan at Coventry City in League One.

Adam Armstrong took to the professional first team game like a duck to water, scoring 20 goals in 40 League One games and being voted into the PFA Team of the Year.

On his return, Newcastle had just been relegated and Rafa Benitez was now in charge. The club had spent big on Dwight Gayle in the summer as well as having Aleksandar Mitrovic on the books and the decision was made to loan Armstrong out once again, this time to fellow Championship club Barnsley.

He scored a spectacular goal on debut in a 2-1 win against Preston and added another two games later, suggesting that he was finding the step up a comfortable one. However, unlike at Coventry, Armstrong wasn’t playing as a central striker, but more of a wide forward and he would find goals harder to come by, ending the season with just six goals in 35 games.

With Newcastle now back in the Premier League, Armstrong was set for another loan spell in the Championship at Bolton Wanderers and this was where he really struggled for the first time in his career.

Playing predominantly on the left of a front three, his form was poor, managing only three goals in 23 appearances, before the club ended his loan in January. He was then swiftly sent on loan to League One Blackburn Rovers.

I think this was probably the point that Adam Armstrong, and Newcastle fans, realised his time at the club was up. Deemed not good enough at Championship level, he had little chance of ever breaking in to the Newcastle first team in the Premier League.

At Blackburn, back under the management of Tony Mowbray, who had been such an influence during his loan spell at Coventry he started finding some form again, scoring nine goals in 21 games, winning League One Player of the Month in February 2018 and being part of the team that secured promotion back to the Championship.

That was enough to persuade Rovers to sign him on a permanent deal and 2018-19 was set to be a big season for Armstrong as he looked to establish himself after so many loan deals over the last couple of years, and prove that he was good enough for the Championship.

It was a steady if unspectacular season for him, playing 48 games in all competitions and scoring nine goals, including one against Newcastle (see photo above) in the FA Cup.

He endured another slow start to 2019-20, scoring three goals in his first 20 games.

And then the turning point in his season, and quite possibly his career, arrived and it was a game I happened to be at. Newcastle were home to Southampton that weekend and I couldn’t get up for that one, so I was on the hunt for a game and ended up at Blackburn v Derby.

I was keen to see Armstrong play and see how he had progressed. Now lining up on the right side of a three, he was a constant threat with his pace in the first half but his finishing was very poor. After a couple of missed opportunities at the start of the second half I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see Mowbray withdraw the misfiring striker.

However, then out of nowhere, Armstrong picked up the ball on the edge of the Derby box and lashed the ball into the top corner, ending an eight game run without a goal.

This goal also coincided with a serious injury to Bradley Dack which led to a more central role for Armstrong and he has thrived with the extra responsibility, scoring nine goals in his last 19 appearances before the postponement of all football.

At time of writing, Blackburn are just three points outside the play-off positions and Armstrong potentially has a real chance of getting back to the Premier League, either with Rovers, or with another club if his form continues – alongside his goals he also has an impressive haul of assists.

His career could have gone one of two ways after leaving Newcastle but the evidence suggests that now 23, Adam Armstrong is on his way back to the top.

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