Making outstanding the norm: Newcastle United’s Kieran Trippier just gets better
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Atletico Madrid’s attempts to persuade Kieran Trippier to shun Newcastle United’s offer and extend his time in the Spanish capital continued up to the point he put pen to paper on a deal of Tyneside.
Calls from key figures with the La Liga giants’ hierarchy were frequent from the moment he made his way to the airport to travel to England and did not end until the morning he walked into St. James’ Park to undergo media duties and officially become the Magpies first major signing since the PIF-led takeover of the club.
Even as he sat having breakfast overlooking the Tyne on the chilly January morning of his unveiling, his phone was a constant buzz with Atleti manager Diego Simeone and club president Enrique Cerezo making last-ditch attempts to retain Trippier’s services after delaying the deal until after a Copa del Rey win over minnows Rayo Majadahonda the previous night.
Despite being tempted to remain part of Simeone’s squad, with one swish of a pen, Trippier had opted to go from La Liga winner and life in the Champions League to trying to help his new club avoid relegation into the Championship.
On the face of it, it felt a monumental risk, and in reality, that statement is probably true. One can only question what was going through Trippier’s mind when his Magpies debut came in a shock FA Cup exit at the hands of League One club Cambridge United.
Thankfully, first impressions proved to be misleading, and despite Trippier missing part of the remainder of the season with a foot injury, the Magpies produced a remarkable turnaround in form to remain in the Premier League and lay the foundations for what would become one of the club’s most memorable seasons in their recent history.
The arrival of an England international with experience of what it takes to succeed working under a demanding manager and with recent success in one of European football’s top leagues may well have provided something of a culture shock in the United dressing room. Higher standards were demanded, expectations were raised and Trippier played a lead role in helping Howe - who he worked under during their time at Burnley - instil the intensity and drive that have become hallmarks of the Magpies performances over the last 18 months.
A natural leader off the pitch, Trippier has now become a true leader on the other side of the white lines, wearing the armband with regularity as the former of Fabian Schar and Sven Botman have left club captain Jamaal Lascelles watching on from the sidelines.
His performances have not buckled under the weight of pressure caused by captaincy and if anything, Trippier has been enthused and motivated by leading out his side. Quite simply, he has made outstanding the norm and can be overlooked when star performers are identified purely because the levels of consistency have reached such a peak level.
Yet there can be no ignoring the performances Trippier has showcased over the last ten days as he has come to the fore in what we three potentially pivotal fixtures for his side. Firstly, in a much-needed win against Brentford, the England star was gritty and dogged in what was a real battle with the Bees that saw the Magpies emerge with a clean sheet and three points that began the process of moving on from a challenging start to the season.
Just days later, in the cauldron that is the San Siro, as Newcastle faced a torrent of attacks from Serie A giants AC Milan, Trippier remained defiant, showing remarkable composure and class that had all of the hallmarks of a top class defender.
Free from the shackles of pressure of competing in UEFA’s elite club competition and facing a lively attack, Trippier showed the other side of his game as the Magpies romped to an 8-0 win at Sheffield United. Unsurprisingly, the England star was at the forefront of his side’s attacking play, providing assists for Sven Botman, Dan Burn and Callum Wilson to find the net throughout a devastating destruction of Paul Heckingbottom’s men.
At 33, Trippier is showing genuine signs of reaching new levels in his game, rather than the regression that can hit players as they reach what some would claim is the autumn of their careers.
Ask any member of Newcastle’s coaching staff or the men he shares a dressing room with at St. James’ Park of the impact Trippier has made and they will return an answer in glowing terms, citing the experience and ability he has displayed as key drivers in the improvement of the last 20 months.
Some have discussed whether the former Spurs defender is the best full-back in United’s history - and although silverware is not on his side of the arguement, consistency, impact and influence most certainly way in his favour when compared to his predeccesors in black and white.
Described by many as a catalyst for what followed his arrival, the standards Trippier has helped instil during his time with the Magpies will continue to be driven long after his career comes to a close.