Joelinton’s Newcastle United transformation story stole the headlines last season - but Emil Krafth is definitely a close second.
There were players ‘written off’ until Eddie Howe arrived as head coach in November. Krafth was one of them after a difficult opening two years on Tyneside.
Many feared the worst when the news broke of Kieran Trippier’s broken metatarsal in February but his absence, at least on the pitch, was truly never felt.
That’s because, Krafth, out of nowhere really, stepped up to the plate and helped United surge to Premier League safety.
So, it should come as no surprise that the 27-year-old was rewarded with a new one-year contract extension, keeping him at St James’ Park until 2024, earlier this week.
Emil Krafth on his new contract
“I’m very happy to stay at Newcastle, to extend my stay here with one more year,” Krafth told the local media in Lisbon. “I think I played really well last season.
“After Tripps got injured, he gave me the chance, and I think I took it. I think I deserve to have an extension.
“We had a good talk, me and the club and my agent. I’m very happy that we found a solution here.”
Krafth managed just 17 Premier League appearances in the first season after arriving from French club Amiens in a deal worth £5million.
His appearances dropped to 16 in his second season and was on course to decrease even further before Trippier’s injury.
But Krafth grasped his opportunity despite Javier Manquillo being tipped as the man to fill the void left by England international Trippier.
The Eddie Howe and takeover effect
So, what does Krafth put his significant improvement down to?
“I think a big part of it has been the takeover and the coach,” he said. “Eddie really believed in me, and the way that he wanted to play suits me, like pressing high. I just think the way we play, and how the coach believes in you, gives you confidence.
“It can to any player. It’s not just me. You see more and more players at the club have raised their levels as well. I’m one of them. I think it’s just the way the coach wants to play, and how he believes in you.”
Not only that, Krafth reflected on the change in mood around the club from when he joined three years ago to now.
‘Newcastle’s going to be a top-six club in the Premier League’
He joined a club dis-jointed from top to bottom under Mike Ashley as owner and Steve Bruce as manager. Fast forward to now, however, Newcastle couldn’t be more united.
Krafth said: “What can I say? I came to a club where the supporters weren’t really happy, so I’m very happy for the club that the takeover went through. Since then, it’s only going uphill.
“I hope we can continue and build for the future. I think, in the near-future, Newcastle’s going to be a top-six club in the Premier League, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
“It’s going to take some time. But, I think, in the near-future, is going to be a top club.”
“As players, we want to play at the highest level. I hope, and really think, that the club’s going to be there in a few years.”