Two years on: the game that made Joelinton

Written by on 30th November 2023

November 30, 2021 may not be a date that is remembered fondly by many outside of Newcastle. But Geordies look back at that date as an evening when a star was born.

Newcastle United’s Joelinton will go down in Geordie folklore as one of the most popular players in recent years, and it all began on that cold Tuesday night in November at St James’ Park in front of more than 50,000 fans.

Most fans will all agree that he did not have the best of starts for the Magpies, after signing for a then-club record fee of £40million.

Joelinton signed for the Magpies as a striker following success at Hoffenheim and Rapid Wien. After a couple of months at the club, it was clear that he had a lot of work to do to succeed on Tyneside.

As Newcastle United blogger ToonPolls told Spark: “Joelinton looked bereft of confidence. A hapless number nine that couldn’t do anything right.”

Their thoughts were echoed by Sports Journalist Thomas Hammond, who said: “Joelinton was a player that was lost, low on confidence, making fans question the (at the time) record transfer fee paid for his service.

“His time at Newcastle was surely coming to its latter stages before Eddie Howe’s arrival, which seemed to reignite a belief in all players at the club that they were good enough, none more so than Joelinton.”

Despite being taken over by a consortium of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners, and the Reuben Brothers and hiring Eddie Howe as their new manager, Newcastle were rock-bottom of the Premier League going into a crucial game against relegation rivals Norwich.

Just 10 minutes into the game, disaster struck when Ciaran Clark was sent off for a last-man challenge on Teemu Pukki. The sending-off forced Joelinton, who was playing as a striker, to move into midfield.

ToonPolls recalled: “When Clark got sent off that night, I don’t think anyone’s attention was on Joelinton switching to midfield. We were all far too annoyed with Clark.”

(Photo by Will Matthews: Alamy)

Newcastle fan and content creator Kendall Rowan told Spark: “ (Clark’s sending off) was an indictment of the frustrations at the club at that time. Then Howe needed to tactically sit deeper, on a stroke of genius dropped Joelinton into midfield and the rest is history.”

As the game progressed, though, Joelinton grew into the game.

ToonPolls added: “We saw an absolute beast of a midfielder develop in front of our eyes. It was like he had played there all his life, dominated the midfield, broke up play and really responded to being asked to do something different.

“It is almost like the pressure had been lifted from him.”

The game finished 1-1 after Callum Wilson’s penalty was cancelled out by Pukki’s overhead kick just 10 minutes from time. Joelinton played all 90 minutes, and established himself as a truly influential figure in Newcastle’s midfield for the remainder of the season.

Hammond reminded us of his progress since that night, he said: “Since (the Norwich game) he has never looked back as he continues to be one of the first names on the team sheet in a midfield 3 alongside his Brazilian counterpart, Bruno Guimaraes, being a key part of Howe’s rigid yet fluid shape.”


Rowan was full of praise for the Brazilian enforcer, saying: “He has now become one of the best midfield enforcers in the Premier League, a physical presence and holder of the ball we don’t often see.”

ToonPolls added: “He has made the position his own. There have been countless imperious performances over the last two years. 

“Credit to Eddie Howe for seeing something in (Joelinton) to give him a new lease of life.”

Two years later, Joelinton has played his part in guiding Newcastle to a Carabao Cup final, and a top-four finish in the Premier League for the first time in 20 years. On a personal note, he received his first call-up to the Brazilian national team in June 2023, scoring on his debut.

(Credit – Alamy)

 Joelinton remains a key player in Newcastle’s squad, with the Magpies in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals and chasing another season in Europe’s top competition. 

Talking about Joelinton’s season so far, ToonPolls said: “(His season) has been a bit disjointed so far – a few niggling injuries have meant he has not been able to get a good run of games. But one thing you are guaranteed with Joelinton is 100% commitment any time he steps onto the field of play.”

Rowan added: “He has been absolutely exceptional again, garnering praise on the biggest stage in the Champions League, maintaining a place in the Brazil squad and getting a goal and a couple of assists along the way for the Magpies.

That temper is still there but it’s the heart and desire to win that is needed at times to get through the game, and he is perfect for it.”

Joelinton is not only making an impact on the pitch, he has also been a big influence in the community and recently raised £12,000 for the Newcastle Food Bank. Talking about that act of kindness, Toon boss Howe said: “He is a kind, caring man for someone who’s such an intimidating presence on pitch. It’s great to see players giving back to the local community – no better sight than us using what we have for good causes.”

ToonPolls concluded by saying: “Within the space of two years, Joelinton has gone from zero to hero amongst NUFC fans and he deserves all the plaudits in the world for turning round his own fortunes. 

“So now maybe we need to say thank you to Ciaran Clark for what has become the most fortuitous of ripple effects.”

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