Northern Boys – Part IX
Well well well, have I got a story to tell you…..
Let’s recap. It took us five seasons to clear the decks at non-Saudi owned Newcastle and fill our squad and backroom ranks with players and staff who were born or raised in the North-East of England. This was part of the plan. It took us four seasons however, to get ourselves relegated from the Premier League and just about cling onto our job with our esteemed Chairman Joe Ordiman showing all kinds of blind faith and trust in the process. Needless to say this was not part of the plan.
Two seasons later we find ourselves still in the Championship, with back to back final day disappointments which saw us missing out on consecutive playoff spots to finish 7th in each of our first two attempts at returning to the Premier League. Northern Boys proves to be a far more difficult challenge than we ever could have anticipated all the way back in November when this save adventure began. That being said – operation restore the North-East and boost football production across the region is in full flight, and we are slowly starting to see the fruits of our labour both in terms of our own youth production as well as footballing stature in this part of the world – but more on that later…
The long and the short of it is that after 6 seasons, we have signed virtually all of the real-life Northern Boys that are either interested or good enough to play for this fine club. Having added the likes of Dael Fry, Lewis Gibson, Shola Shoretire and Adam Armstrong – only the likes of Jordan Henderson, Jordan Pickford and Giovanni Reyna remain unattainable for the foreseeable future.
Actually, make that the unforeseeable future…🤦♂️
We do however, succeed in bringing in a replacement for error-prone goalkeeper Bailey Peacock Farrell with a familiar face returning in the form of Freddie Woodman, who we sold to Leeds back in 2023 (at a time when now-retired Fraser Forster was keeping nets for the boys) and now returns for a £4m fee from Barnsley – not quite Pogba levels of double dipping, but hopefully he can be a more stable stalwart between the sticks than his predecessor (see previous blog posts for the madness of BPF). In addition to Woodman we also bring in Luke Young from Sheffield Wednesday for £8m after he scored 14 goals in League 1 last season, along with Josh Coburn from Forest Green (£200k) as another backup striker to the likes of Adam Armstrong, Sam Greenwood and Joe Hugill.
That means we commence Season 7 with a Northern Boys squad as follows:
Newcastle United Squad List 2026/2027
Goalkeepers: Freddie Woodman, Bailey Peacock Farrell, Stuart Shaw*
Defenders: Dael Fry, Lewis Gibson, Mattie Pollock, Leif Davis, Fred Briggs*, Obeng Arthur*, Bali Mumba, Steve Connolly*
Midfielders: Sean Longstaff, Lewis Wing, Shola Shoretire, Josh Mellor*, Elliott Embleton, Dan Barlaser, Gabriel Odumosu*, Elliott Anderson
Forwards: Adam Armstrong, Sam Greenwood, Joe Hugill, Luke Young*, Josh Coburn
(Before you get alarmed – we decided to loan the big man Willie Power to Newport County for the season, at 17 he needs minutes and crowd worship, Vanarama fans won’t know what hit them)
After a frenetic opening game which saw us take a 92nd minute lead only for Luton to equalise on 96 minutes (standard Northern Boys behaviour that) – we only managed one defeat in our opening 10 league games before slipping up to Bournemouth and Crystal Palace in October which left us in 10th place as we entered the busy Winter period – not ideal but such is life in the Championship that only 4 points separate us from 2nd place!!
This isn’t even the most disappointing news. After 6 seasons of tears, joy and emotion with our esteemed Chairman Joe Ordiman (and despite the fact that I selected “prevent takeovers” in the Editor before starting this save 🤔), the unthinkable happens as a takeover indeed goes through with Joe moving on to pastures new to be replaced by one Jamie Eccles. Thankfully he doesn’t get any wild notions of dethroning us from the Northern Boys helm, but it’s a sad day in the Trust the Process saga as we say goodbye to big Joe forever.
Fare Thee Well Joe ❤️
Back on field, a blip against Ipswich is quickly forgotten as we win four on the bounce in November, however stumble through December and January picking up wins here and there but dropping far more points than one would desire at this time of year. By the end of January and with 30 games played we were up to 6th in the league, albeit with an 11 point gap from the automatic promotion places and finding ourselves as one of 7 teams within 3 points of each other. The Championship is as mad as a bag of cats.
All I can say is thank f*ck for Adam Armstrong. By the time we hit February he has bagged 25 goals in the league including 7 braces, and is on a one-man mission to get us back into the Premier League. You may remember that in both of our last two seasons we saw him pick up long-term injuries in the second half of the season – if we can keep him fit and firing for the rest of the season then surely we can at least make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons 🤞. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for any of his striker partners – so far we have dabbled between Luke Young and Joe Hugill, neither of whom have been taking their chances so we decide to shift direction and rotate between Sam Greenwood and Gabriel Odomosu, the latter of whom came through our youth intake a few seasons back and is showing signs of becoming a first team contender (at least at this level).
Oh – one other change of note. Having had Graeme Jones as our Assistant Manager for the past 6 seasons, we decide to freshen things up by promoting Michael Carrick as our second-in-command – a player I would have loved to see in a Newcastle shirt back in his day however we will settle for having him beside us in the St. James Park dugout..I bet he smells good too.
Whether it was the Striker changes, the takeover, Carrick’s influence, an intervention from @FMDoop and @Nerdphonic on the @5StarPod or FM showing a rare moment of sympathy to the Northern Boys cause, something clicks and we have ourselves a great time in February and March.
Out of nowhere we win 8 games from 9 and the accummulation of results elsewhere sees us go level with Cardiff in 2nd place, 9 points clear of the cut-off for playoff places and only 5 points behind league leaders Bournemouth. PROMOTION KLAXONS ARE RINGING AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO 😄😄.
Of course, that’s not all March brings as most of you Football Manager enthusiasts will know. We gave you a sneak preview of our Youth Intake at the start of this post, and now it’s time to see if all our efforts to boost our Youth Development, Facilities, Category, Scouting and Recruitment might finally pay off after a number of seasons referencing a so called “Golden Generation” without seeing any true 5 Star Potential wonderkids coming through (even Willie ain’t that good). Please please please please please……
Ok so it might not be 5 stars but remember the name – DENNIS JAMESON. 19 Flair, 16 First Touch, 16 Technique, 15 Off the Ball and 16 Determination – not bad for a 15 year-old and to top things off, the lad was born down the road in South-Shields – as Northern as Brown Ale and by God I hope he turns out half as tasty. In addition to this we see huge potential in Carl Daniels (who we will retrain as a DM), Harrison Jessup (Box to Box material) and Goalkeeper Sam Williams – all of whom have ridiculous mental attributes in what has been our best intake of the save so far. Watch this space!!
The Final Lap
Six games. Six games to revive our season, reignite the save and restore Newcastle to the bright lights of Premier League football. Six games to make us forget the pain and anguish of seasons gone by. Six games to silence the haters and put the North-East back on the Premier League map and bring joy and elation to the Toon faithful. Our time is now surely…
There is an evil version of Fabrizio Romano in another universe whose tagline is “Here We Go AGAIN”. I mean, really. How is this possible. That makes it THREE consecituve seasons in which Adam Armstrong has picked up a long-term injury (at a time when he is top league goalscorer) and is ruled out at the business end of the season missing our most crucial run of games. WHY ARE THE FM GODS SO VENGEFUL. This means our fate rests in the hands of Sam Greenwood (6 goals) and Gabriel Odumosu (3 goals) in a run which includes a massive six-pointer against Cardiff with whom we are currently level on points. I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING.
On the downside, we dropped 4 points including a dull 0-0 draw with our arch rivals. On the bright side, Cardiff dropped 6 points losing to Blackburn and Birmingham which puts us in pole position as we prepare to welcome said Cardiff to St. James Park in what is now the BIGGEST game of this save so far to date.
Win and we are back in the Premier League. Draw and we HAVE to beat Portsmouth away in our last game. Lose and it’s out of our hands. We’ve said it before but…it all comes down to this.
Newcastle vs Cardiff – Saturday 29th April 2028.
🗣️ “67 minutes on the clock and these two promotion chasing sides can’t be separated, locked in a scoreless draw as the tension rises knowing what is at stake for whichever team can make the first breakthrough. The home side have slighlty edged it on posession and shots on goal, but Cardiff’s three at the back have dealt with everything thrown at them not to mention goalkeeper Andrew Fisher putting in a 7.9 rating. Surely one of these sides will take a chance and…..PENALTY TO NEWCASTLE, I DON’T BELIEVE IT!!“
🗣️ “Adam Armstrong has scored 8 from 8 penalties this season but is not on the pitch for Newcastle today. The hope and dreams of Tyneside now fall on the shoulders of Sunderland-born Sam Greenwood….“
🗣️ “HE MISSES!! I DON’T BELIEVE IT!! SAM GREENWOOD HITS IT STRAIGHT AT THE KEEPER AND NEWCASTLE HAVE SQUANDERED A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO GAIN PROMOTION TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE!! OH MY DAYS…”
🗣️ “RED CARD FOR CARDIFF – TOM DAVIES RECEIVES A STRAIGHT RED FOR A HORROR TACKLE ON DAEL FRY!! SURELY THIS IS NEWCASTLE’S TIME, SURELY…”
Weirdly this feels normal again. A penalty and a red card and we’ve still managed to squander a golden chance for automatic promotion. Adam Armstrong would have scored. Hell, Neil Armstrong would have scored, but in typical FM / Northern Boys fashion we somehow fail to win and now we have to make the 400 mile / 635 kilometre journey to Portsmouth knowing that only a win will guarantee us a place in the Premier League next season, anything else and we will have to rely on Cardiff dropping points at home to 18th place Blackpool. The stars are aligning, and not in a good way….
Portsmouth vs Newcastle – Saturday 6th May 2028
3′ – GOAL FOR PORTSMOUTH – WICKENDEN SCORES! 1-0 – not the start Newcastle hoped for…
5′ – GOAL FOR PORTSMOUTH – WALLACE MAKES IT TWO!! Disaster for Newcastle – news will surely filter over to Cardiff letting them know that a win will see them promoted, it’s currently scoreless..
42′ – GOAL FOR NEWCASTLE!! SHOLA SHORETIRE HAS PUT NEWCASTLE BACK IN THE GAME!! 2-1, still 0-0 over in Cardiff …
HALF-TIME – Portsmouth 2-1 Newcastle. Manager MaddFM will be very unhappy with his side’s start to the game but they are very much still in it, with Cardiff and Blackpool still scoreless. A huge 45 minutes ahead..
64′ – GOAL PORTSMOUTH!! VAN HOOIJDONK BREAKS GEORDIE HEARTS AND MAKES IT 3-1!! ALL CARDIFF NEED IS A GOAL AND THERE’S NO WAY THEY DON’T KNOW IT..
73′ – GOAL PORSTMOUTH AND WALLACE MAKES IT 4-1!! Newcastle Manager MaddFM can’t believe what he is seeing – a side on the verge of Premier League promotion playing like a non-league side at best, Premier League status now completely out of their hands. Still 0-0 over in Wales – Newcastle fans are Blackpool fans now!! One Cardiff goal will seal it…
79′ – I DON’T BELIEVE IT!! BLACKPOOL HAVE TAKEN THE LEAD IN CARDIFF!!! NEWCASTLE FANS HAVE AN UNLIKELY NEW HERO AND THAT MAN’S NAME IS MIKEY JOHNSTON!! Cardiff now need two goals otherwise it will be Newcastle that advance to the Premier League in the most unlikely and unsightly of circumstances…the Toon Army are 11 minutes from Premier League football next season…
93′ – THE FULL TIME WHISTLE BLOWS!! NEWCASTLE ARE PROMOTED!! CARDIFF SUFFER A 1-0 DEFEAT AT THE HANDS OF BLACKPOOL AND DESPITE AN EMBARASSING 4-1 DEFEAT HERE AT FRATTON PARK, IT’S NEWCASTLE WHO WILL PLAY PREMIER LEAGUE FOOTBALL NEXT SEASON!! RIDICULOUS SCENES, HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE FOOTBALL..!”
Madness. Absolute madness. More than my 35 year old heart, soul and nerves could take but somehow we finally managed to shake of our final day curse and stumble our way into the Premier League. If you had offered me a playoff spot back in January I’d have snapped your hand off, but a huge run of form at the right time propelled us up the league (mainly thanks to Adam Armstrong’s goalscoring heroics) and we now know that Season 8 of Northern Boys will take place in the Premier League where the likes of Man Utd (Reyna, Chiesa, De Ketalaere), Man City (Martinez, Foden, Adeyemi), Liverpool (Leao, Alvarez, Dybala) and Chelsea (Moukoko, Havertz, Zaniolo) all are eagerly waiting to smash the living sh*t out of our humble Northern Boys squad – BUT CARE WE DON’T, WE ARE PREMIER LEAGUE AGAIN!!
The big question on everyone’s lips is what Northern Boys can we now sign as we return to the Premier League. 34-year-old Jordan Pickford still at Everton? 36-year-old Jordan Henderson still at Liverpool? Let’s not forget Nathan Wood who was poached by Leeds when we originally got relegated. End of Season surely doesn’t get any crazier than that – what a day, what a game, what a series…we go again 🚀.
Thanks for reading,
If you would like to relive the madness of that end-of-season run-in, you can catch the full broadcast over on my Twitch channel. As usual I’ll also be posting regular updates in the MaddFM Discord server so feel free to join in, you can also catch me most Mondays on 5* Star Potential, your weekly Football Manager podcast.
Mat Quintana (FM Cheater)
Loving this blog *so much*, Madd. And looking forward to the Premier League…quite the challenge
I’ve got to admit, I was genuinely nervous for you reading through this post. Well done on the promotion!
I got to say, I’m really happy for you. You have sounded so weary on the 5*pod lately when the Northern Boys have been brought up. The structure of the post had me stressed out so much about whether you were going to make it or not. Quality writing as always!