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Kieran Trippier’s Player of the Year nomination much deserved

Kieran Trippier has been Newcastle’s on-pitch captain all season, with Jamaal Lascelles, the club skipper, rarely selected. In the pre-match huddle on the pitch, it is his job to make sure the team are ready to fight ahead. This season, as they have launched an unlikely assault for Champions League qualification, that has become more important than anyone could have imagined back in August.

In those huddles, Trippier’s motto is “pressure is a privilege”. That notion is worth remembering for Newcastle as they head into a crucial game with Leicester at St James’ Park on Monday night. One point will secure a top four finish and a return to the European football’s premier club competition for the first time in 20 years. Such an achievement was on Newcastle’s radar after the Saudi-backed takeover in 2021, but not this early. It is an astonishing achievement for the club to be in such a position, especially when considering that they were almost cut adrift and winless in the Premier League when the new owners arrived. It is down, without doubt to the heavy investment they afforded, but also to the detailed and sensible work of Eddie Howe, and calm, level-headed leadership of Trippier.

When he signed, leaving Atletico Madrid where he had won a league title and played Champions League football, he became the standard bearer at Newcastle. For a club that had drifted with little by way of a plan for so many years under the guise of Mike Ashley’s club, they suddenly had a player who had not only seen the top level, but looked more than at home in it, too. The new money meant that Newcastle were always going to be linked with big name players, and there was a school of thought that suggested they would splurge on big name players without structure, but they couldn’t have picked a better player to embody their measured approach to improving Newcastle as a club than the England full-back.

There are many factors, tactically, why Newcastle have accelerated so well this season. Chiefly, they press really well through the middle of the pitch and pin teams in their own half to maintain pressure and momentum. But the majority of their chances are created from wide areas, and Trippier is perhaps the most crucial component to that. Unlike Dan Burn, who has made the left-back spot his own, his primary role is to get up the pitch and support the winger in front of him. The quick one-two he has played so often with Miguel Almiron has unleashed the Paraguayan so often this season; still patchy and inconsistent in front of goal, Almiron has enjoyed his most prolific season with 11 goals. But even without the stats, his effectiveness has grown exponentially, and Trippier has been a huge reason for that.

Premier League Player of the Year nominations were announced last week. When a striker who has scored over 50 goals in a season, and broken the league record for a single campaign on the way to winning a title in his debut season is up to the award, there is very little that can be done. Erling Haaland will win as he should, but Trippier deserves his place alongside him and the likes of Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford, because nobody on the pitch has been more crucial to Newcastle’s success than him. There has been no better, more efficient fullback in the Premier League, and also part of one of the strongest defences in the division, too.

Whatever happens next for Newcastle, and there promises to be an incredibly exciting time ahead, the foundations laid in this first full season will stand them in very good stead. Trippier’s impact has been immeasurable in so many ways, and he will take some beating as the best signing made by the club in what is expected to be a trophy-laden era.

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