There were a lot of surprises last season, some not so pleasant, but Dan Burn was certainly one of the big positive ones.
Eddie Howe and Newcastle United pursued Diego Carlos and Sven Botman for much of the January transfer window, before eventually admitting defeat.
Instead they went to plan B, or should that be plan C?
Big Dan Burn arriving on deadline day for £13m, fair to say that the media and rival fans were amused that the ‘richest club in the World’ were buying somebody who wasn’t an automatic first choice at Brighton.
Like most Newcastle fans I knew the basics. On Newcastle’s books as a kid, didn’t make it, dropped into non-league and eventually worked his way into the Premier League. A brilliant story of not giving up for the lad from Blyth.
Also fair to say though that the Newcastle fanbase wasn’t excited by this arrival, nor Matt Targett, the left-back who was then number two at Villa and also arrived (on loan) on deadline day.
Fans weren’t slagging the signings off, just wondering if they were actually going to improve the defence and team.
They were both outstanding.
Bruno G might have got the headlines but Dan Burn and Matt Targett were the two January signings who contributed most to the amazing second half form and turnaround in NUFC fortunes.
Fast forward to 1 July 2022 and Sven Botman signs at last.
The question is, will it be Fabian Schar or Dan Burn who drops out, with the other one partnering Botman?
Newcastle kick off against Forest with Botman on the bench, that excellent second half of the season pairing of Burn and Schar retained. United totally dominate the match and the visitors don’t have a single shot on target, fair to say the defence had done their job and surely no chance of either central defender getting dropped for the Brighton match, to allow Botman in.
Which indeed was the case, though as often happens in these cases, fate intervened.
Dan Burn and Fabian Schar started but so did Sven Botman, a dead leg injury picked up by Matt Targett meant Eddie Howe switched Burn to left-back where he had played often for Brighton. Botman and Schar in the middle.
As you will no doubt know, Newcastle came away with a battling point. Nick Pope man of the match, whilst in front of him the back four stood up well to a lot of second half pressure.
My thinking before the season kicked off was that any of the trio would be unlucky not to start. Botman looking a class act from what I’d seen, whilst the other two had done so well under Eddie Howe in 2022.
I thought it would be Botman and Burn to start against Forest, as I thought the latter had been so outstanding, he had shaded Schar last season. Whilst Eddie Howe clearly hadn’t brought in the Dutch defender to be on the subs bench longer term and he’d had a full pre-season with NUFC, so no reason why he shouldn’t be starting.
Anyway, we now have a changed dynamic.
I am guessing a dead leg won’t be keeping Matt Targett out for a second game, so he will start against Man City. Burn did decent at left-back but clearly is far better in the middle, whilst Targett is obviously the best left-back at the club. No room for sentiment, Eddie Howe will bring the former Villa player straight back in.
To me, this leaves Dan Burn very vulnerable.
If Targett hadn’t been injured, then for sure Burn and Schar would have played in the middle on Saturday. However, now Sven Botman has been given his chance, came in against Brighton and played well, surely now staying in the team.
Once again I am thinking Dan Burn or Fabian Schar, who will partner him? Well, we are only two games in, but for me Schar has been excellent in both matches, Newcastle’s best central defender. So Burn at risk of being odd man out, through no fault of his own.
However, I think Dan Burn could well have a temporary reprieve.
I can see him playing all three central defenders against the threat of Man City, partly because these are three players who he would all like in his first eleven, plus it may allow Newcastle more of a threat going forward, especially the likes of Trippier and Targett able to have more freedom to get up the wings.
With Liverpool then two games later, with Wolves away in between, maybe even a chance that Eddie Howe could see the merits in playing the three central defenders in a little run of games, especially if proving effective against Man City.
However, even if that happens, then I see crunch time definitely coming at the start of September, with NUFC playing two and not three centre-backs, with Dan Burn very probably the odd man out.
Newcastle having Crystal Palace (H), West Ham (A) and Bournemouth (H) next month, before the international break.
Whilst a headache for Eddie Howe, it is a real positive, central defence now one of Newcastle’s major strengths, with three very good options and also captain Jamaal Lascelles as decent back up for that trio.