When I saw Eddie Howe’s team sheet for the Manchester City game my heart sank…
I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who felt like this 13 days ago, ahead of the Carabao Cup third round match at St James’ Park against Manchester City.
While I understood the selection, given the team are fighting on four fronts, and the need to rotate players, it still very much felt like we had already written off a competition which last season had come so close to delivering our first major trophy since 1969.
In trying to seek any positives ahead of kick-off, I was reminded of a League Cup fixture back in 2014 against the same opponents, but this time played in Manchester, when Alan Pardew named a second string 11 against a strong Manchester City side.
On that night, just like we did on 27 September, we emerged victorious against the odds, and remarkably both those things had one thing in common – a superb performance at centre half by Paul Dummett.
Dummett’s first team chances have been almost non-existent in recent years, with his selection for the Manchester City game, his first appearance for Eddie Howe’s side since playing in the second round of last season’s EFL Cup away at Tranmere Rovers in August 2022.
His outstanding performance reminded us all, not only that he remains an excellent defender, but that a huge opportunity was missed earlier in Dummett’s career to convert him to a centre-back. Calm on the ball, strong in the tackle, good in the air and an excellent reader of the game, he clearly had all the attributes required to play centrally.
Paul Dummett has played most of his career at left-back and he has been a fine servant for his boyhood club. However, his career has been hugely interrupted by injuries and by the turmoil on and off the pitch throughout the Mike Ashley regime.
It is no coincidence that Dummett enjoyed the best years or his career under the management of Rafael Benitez. He played 46 games in the 2016-17 Championship winning season and was a regular pick for the Spaniard when he was fit, playing 47 times in the next two campaigns before Benitez left the club and was eventually replaced by Steve Bruce.
While Dummett is clearly now entering the twilight of his Newcastle United career, his performance against Pep Guardiola’s side was a reminder of what might have been had he been able to stay fit, but also work with a manager with the ability of Eddie Howe, who has made a monumental difference to so many players’ careers since he joined the club.
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