With our summer transfer window leaving us with this weird optimistic feeling, we wanted to dig down deeper into who we believe was our second most important signing, Jamal Lewis.
We were screaming out for improvement in two positions; Striker, and left back. Callum Wilson has plugged the gap and the top of the pitch, while Jamal Lewis was bought in to fulfil the near-decade gap at left back.
Journey to NUFC
Jamal Lewis was born in Luton, although gained eligibility to play for Northern Ireland due to his mother being Belfast-born.
As with many youngsters in the English footballing system, he first got into football with his local team. For Lewis, this happened to be the same club that his dad was coaching; St Martin’s Football club.
Learning the ropes of football under close supervision it was clear from an early age that he had potential to become a great player. This was harnessed when Luton Town scouted the youngster and progressed him through their youth setup from the age of 8 to 15.
At the age of 15 he decided to spend a year away from football after admitting he wasn’t enjoying his time on the pitch. It was fortunate that when taking a break from football, he decided to focus on athletics. This ensured that although he wasn’t spending time on the pitch, he still developed the psychical aspect of his game.
It was during this break that Jamal received an out of the blue call from Gregg Broughton, Head of Academy Recruitment at Norwich City. He was informed the club wanted to take him in on trial, so with just a few months to go until the pre-season started he was tasked with re-familiarising himself with a football.
From the first day he joined up with the Norwich City squad, he never looked back. Swiftly progressing from the Under 18’s to the Under 23’s, and finally representing the first team, it was a meteoric rise for the young full back.
Being a part of the first team squad at Norwich towards the end of the 2017/18 season, the club could only manage a 14th placed finish, leaving them in the Championship for another season.
This was of course consumed in a negative manner by all involved with the club, but for Jamal Lewis on a personal level, it was perhaps a blessing in disguise. He desperately needed to play consistent football for a year, and the Championship was arguably the best place for him to do this.
He certainly made the most of the 2018/19 season, establishing himself as a mainstay on the team sheet. Racking up 42 league appearances, he emerged as a pivotal player in their 94 points title charge.
The Northern Irish fullback ended the season as a Championship winner, earning spots in both the PFA Team of the Year, and EFL Team of the Season. The Premier League then beckoned for the full back.
Unlike many teams making the step up from the Championship, Daniel Farke wanted his team to continue their attacking style of play. In hindsight, this was not the best decision as the team sat in the relegation zone from Matchday 8, only collecting 21 points throughout the season.
In contrary from a personal perspective, Lewis again impressed. With the allowance to attack from full back, he was often seen contributing higher up the pitch, including a great goal against Leicester City.
The defensive frailties though cannot be ignored, with the Canaries leaking in a league high 75 goals.
With Norwich relegated at the end of the 2019/20 season, Lewis then made the move that mirrored that of current winger Jacob Murphy, swapping the canary yellow for black and white stripes.
Life at Newcastle United
Jamal Lewis was announced as a Newcastle United player just days after the confirmations of Bournemouth duo; Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser. This did cause the defender to slip slightly under the radar, however many fans rightfully noticed the importance of Lewis signing on the dotted line.
The left back spot has been one of concern over the past years, with the argument standing that we have still not replaced Spaniard, Jose Enrique who left the North East in 2011.
Both Manquillo and Krafth have been deployed on the left, but they are more comfortable on the right side. Paul Dummett also seems a more natural fit at the heart of the defence without the responsibility of providing an attacking option.
Incorporating these factors with the departures of both of last seasons loanees; Jetro Willems, and Danny Rose, it left us without a recognised left back in the squad.
The acquisition of Jamal Lewis therefore filled a desperate gap in the squad. The ability for Bruce to place a square peg into a square hole will hopefully provide us with a much better balanced defensive line going forward.
The fact that Lewis both started, and remained on the pitch for the whole 90 minutes against West Ham can underline how much this signing was needed.
In a promising all round team display, Lewis certainly did himself no harm on his debut. There were some lung-busting runs forward to provide an overlapping option on the left wing, some composed passages in possession, and a generally strong defensive display by the 22 year old.
Of course it can be argued that West Ham were a poor opposition, and that judgement should be reserved until we face a tougher opponent, but I was impressed with the defenders performance.
What do the fans think?
We asked for your opinions on Jamal Lewis over on our Twitter page and these are some of the comments we received:
It was great to see such positive comments on the youngster, which of course combine with the fact that he still has room for improvement. I mean he does have the hairstyle to go with Trent Alexander-Arnold, but we’ll take it easy on those comparisons… For now!
What the future may hold…
With Lewis signing on the dotted line of a 5 year contract, he can hopefully offer us a strong option at left back for years to come.
Even if the takeover had gone ahead and we were owned by the richest owners in the Premier League, Jamal Lewis is still a signing I would liked us to have made.
Of course there will be games when he makes mistakes, at 22 years of age he has a lot to learn, but I do think the experience within our backline can aid his development.
Federico Fernandez was playing closest to him against West Ham, acting as cover when the full back was offering support going forward. The Argentinian has bags of experience from playing in the Argentinian national team, representing Napoli and captaining Swansea in the Premier League.
As for the partnership on the left wing, the link up between himself and Saint-Maximin offers a fantastic spectacle. No matter which team we play against in the Premier League, the natural pace and desire to get forward from this pair will cause problems.
I hope Lewis can continue to adapt to the Premier League and develop into the reliable presence at left back that we have been desperately crying out for.
NUFC Hotspot Newcastle United Blog. Hotspot Blog. NUFC Blog. Newcastle.
Subscribe for the very best NUFC Hotspot round-ups delivered straight to your inbox!