Newcastle United’s pre-season preparations for the 2021-22 campaign begin on Sunday, as Steve Bruce takes half of his contingent to face Harrogate Town at the EnviroVent Stadium.
The other half of the Magpies’ squad will be taking on York City on the same day, as Bruce aims to build some much-needed momentum ahead of next month’s opening Premier League fixtures.
Simon Weaver’s 2020-21 campaign was certainly one to remember in the Harrogate dugout, as he witnessed his side secure survival in League Two at the first time of asking while also scooping the delayed 2019-20 FA Trophy at Wembley.
The Sulphurites’ pre-season fixtures did not exactly start in perfect fashion, though, as Weaver’s men were outclassed 5-0 by Doncaster Rovers before suffering a 1-0 defeat to Huddersfield Town, but their fortunes improved during a journey to Brighouse Town.
A 74th-minute effort from former Scotland Under-19 international Mark Beck propelled Harrogate to a 1-0 win over the Northern Premier League side, and a busy pre-season schedule will also see Weaver’s men take on Rotherham United, Sunderland and Darlington in the coming weeks.
Having unsurprisingly been awarded a new three-year contract at the helm, Weaver – now in his 12th year in charge of the Sulphurites – will now hope to consolidate his side’s place in the Football League, and he is sure to relish this upcoming opportunity against Premier League opposition.
Bruce will never win over the entire Newcastle fanbase, but having overseen a stellar revival at the back end of the 2020-21 season, the 60-year-old has some solid foundations to build on for the new campaign.
The threat of relegation appeared to be looming large for the Magpies, but five wins from their last eight Premier League encounters – a charge led by consistent goalscorer Joe Willock – ultimately saw Newcastle finish 12th and closer to the top eight rather than the bottom three in terms of points.
Whether another deal for Willock – who scored in each of his last seven top-flight games for the club – can be struck remains to be seen, but Newcastle are thought to be making strides in landing the Arsenal man on loan for the upcoming campaign, which would represent a crucial piece of pre-season business.
Big-name transfer activity in and out of Newcastle is yet to occur, though, as a trio of youngsters in Charlie Wiggett, Remi Savage and Cameron Ferguson represent the club’s only incomings thus far, while the seemingly never-ending drama surrounding the proposed takeover continues to rumble on in the background.
Newcastle and Harrogate will be locking horns for the first time ever during Sunday’s friendly, and Magpies supporters will be eager to see which crop of experienced pros and up-and-coming starlets are chosen for which weekend battle.
Harrogate Town Pre-Season Friendlies form: