From the Paraguayan King to the Geordie Boys - Newcastle United’s win v PSG was Gen Z’s Barcelona moment

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Newcastle United’s 4-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain at St James’ Park was a special night for many different reasons.

Yes, last night really did happen. Yes, Newcastle United really did wipe the floor with French champions Paris Saint-Germain. And yes, that really was up there with the great European nights at St James’ Park.

If you ever did need a reminder of how far Newcastle have come in such a short space of time, yesterday was it. A performance for the ages. For late 1990s babies - Generation Z - that was your Barcelona night, Tino Asprilla and all that.

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A lot has happened in the 26 years since then. Sir Bobby Robson helped give the club Andy Griffin against Juventus and Alan Shearer in the San Siro. But a truly depressing 14 years under Mike Ashley made supporters feel like those nights would never return, bar that one-off Europa League campaign a decade ago, of course.

But on Europe’s most elite stage, Newcastle had longed for a night like yesterday. Years of wide-ranging emotion stored, unleashed in 90 minutes of football. A cauldron of noise quite literally blew the Parisians marching all the way back to France.

A historic evening as 11 heroes entered Newcastle folklore. This Magpies team is full of incredible individual stories, but there are five in particular that stand out.

Newcastle’s Paraguayan king

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Step up Miguel Almiron, Newcastle’s very own Paraguayan king. The first Magpies player to score in the Champions League since Shearer in 2003, and one of four players pre-takeover to feature in the starting XI.

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Signed by Rafa Benitez in January 2019, Almiron’s Newcastle career felt like it was a gradual decline when Steve Bruce arrived as head coach six months later. Bruce didn’t know where to play him. Right-wing, left-wing, false 9 and, you’ll laugh... false 10.

His agent constantly fuelled talk of an exit but we haven’t heard a peep since Almiron eventually broke into Howe’s starting XI near the end of the 2021-22 campaign. And in the truth, the 29-year-old hasn’t looked back.

Three goals in his last three and when he’s in that type of form, you wouldn’t bet against him matching last season’s feat of eight in eight.

The man who stood up when no one else did

Newcastle United’s English defender #06 Jamaal Lascelles (C) blocks a shot by Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward #10 Ousmane Dembele (L) during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on October 4, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)Newcastle United’s English defender #06 Jamaal Lascelles (C) blocks a shot by Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward #10 Ousmane Dembele (L) during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on October 4, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)
Newcastle United’s English defender #06 Jamaal Lascelles (C) blocks a shot by Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward #10 Ousmane Dembele (L) during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on October 4, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) | AFP via Getty Images

Jamaal Lascelles, we salute you. You, more than anybody, deserve this after standing up for the football club in its hour of need.

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Who can forget Southampton away in April 2016. With relegation beckoning, a 22-year-old Lascelles stood up in a dressing room full of primadonnas and told them exactly what he thought of them. Ultimately, it was an act that earned him the captaincy that he’s held for the last seven years.

From Burton Albion in the Championship to PSG in the Champions League, wow. That’s some story.

But aside from the sentimental stuff, the Nottingham-born defender put in a performance to match by keeping one of Europe’s deadliest attacks, and attacker in Kylian Mbappe, quiet.

In challenging and testing times, both collectively and personally, Lascelles has remained a vital presence. His leadership and professionalism are second to none and are even more commendable during an 18-month period where his game time has been limited.

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Philippe Albert? No, it’s Fabian Schar

Newcastle United’s Swiss defender #05 Fabian Schar (L) celebrates scoring the team’s fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on October 4, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)Newcastle United’s Swiss defender #05 Fabian Schar (L) celebrates scoring the team’s fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on October 4, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
Newcastle United’s Swiss defender #05 Fabian Schar (L) celebrates scoring the team’s fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on October 4, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Let’s not beat around the bush here, Fabian Schar is 100 per-cent Newcastle United’s best pound-for-pound signing of the modern era. Three and a half million pounds from Deportivo de La Coruna. As transfer fees continue to inflate, I can’t even begin to imagine how (little) far that’d get you now.

By the Swiss international’s own admission, he would have left St James’ Park at the end of his contract in 2022 had it not been for the takeover and Howe’s arrival. For some perspective, in the final game before PIF bought the club, Schar was an unused substitute in a 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Fast forward to now and Schar, who signed a new two-year contract last summer, has played the most games out of any defender under Howe. In many ways, he’s the only survivor with regular backliners Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman and Dan Burn all signing last year.

You’ve had Philippe Albert against Manchester United. Now it’s about Schar versus Paris Saint-Germain. What a strike from 25 yards and let me tell you, there aren’t many, if any, central defenders capable of doing that.

Hello, hello we are Geordie boys

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You can’t write scripts like that!

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Not only was it a Geordie takeover in the stands versus PSG but it also was on the pitch as local lads Dan Burn and Sean Longstaff, quite simply, lived the dream with a goal each.

The last time St James’ Park hosted a Champions League fixture 20 years ago, Burn watched from the stands while Longstaff’s only previous European experience on Tyneside was partaking as a ballboy during the Europea League clash against Benfica a decade ago.

Both players have taken very different routes to the top and last night was undoubtedly the proudest night of their lives.

Longstaff is another player Bruce threatened to write off but under Howe, the 25-year-old has looked every bit of the midfielder (and more) that Manchester United wanted to sign on the back of his breakthrough season in 2019.

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His energy and ability to cover every blade of grass in the midfield makes him indispensable. Only when he hasn’t been in the starting XI have people realised his importance.

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While Longstaff progressed through United’s academy system, Burn was let go aged 13. And from Darlington to Fulham, via Yeovil Town and Birmingham City, to Wigan Athletic and Brighton & Hove Albion, he sealed a homecoming 16 years later.

Football has a way of providing special stories. It just so happens there were five of them on the same night.

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