Newcastle’s Ciaran Clark was sent off after nine minutes
It has only been three weeks since Eddie Howe was appointed but he must already have pondered the unique nature of Newcastle United Football Club.
He only became the new head coach after the club botched their pursuit of Villarreal boss Unai Emery.
Then, the night before the former Bournemouth manager was expected to take charge of his first home game, he was struck down with Covid-19.
And when he finally got to manage his team at St James’ Park, against Norwich, his new side were down to 10 men within nine minutes.
“Make each day your masterpiece” is a key phrase used in Howe’s coaching philosophy, and it was emblazoned across a banner at the Gallowgate End prior to kick-off. Ciaran Clark then scribbled all over it like a toddler.
Strangely, though, it galvanised a team which has the worst defence in the Premier League and almost earned what could have proved a transformative win after Callum Wilson’s second-half penalty.
But as Newcastle’s fans will tell you, drama never strays far from St James’ Park. As a first win of the season came into view, the otherwise impressive home keeper Martin Dubravka pawed away a late cross, leading to Teemu Pukki’s 79th-minute equaliser.
In normal circumstances a point after having a man sent off so early would represent a good result, yet these are far from normal times on Tyneside.
After a £305m Saudi Arabian-backed takeover seven weeks ago, which led to fans calling themselves the richest club in the world, Newcastle remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table with relegation looking more likely the longer the season goes on.
“The challenge ahead is huge,” said Howe afterwards. “We’re under no illusions as to the size of the task we face. We need to get the wins we need – draws aren’t going to be enough.”
Howe keeps cool amid the madness
Once again, this was a game which showed Howe the best and worst side of Newcastle.
Roared on by 50,000 fans on a wet but mild night at St James’ Park, the team pressed and battled against Dean Smith’s Norwich, who sit three points and now two places above them.
Without suspended skipper Jamaal Lascelles, stand-in captain…