Matt Targett relishing life at ‘intense’ Newcastle United ahead of new Premier League season
The Magpies defender has opened up on the beginning of ‘a new chapter’ in his career.
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With pre-season preparations now firmly a thing of the past, Targett and his Magpies team-mates are firmly focused on what promises to be an intriguing opening day fixture against newly-promoted Nottingham Forest.
The meeting with Steve Cooper’s side will end Forest’s 23-year absence from the Premier League - but it will also be of major significance for Targett as he makes his first competitive appearance as a Newcastle player.
The Eastleigh-born defender has already been given a taste of life on Tyneside after joining the Magpies on loan from Aston Villa in the final hours of the January transfer window.
Targett took little time to settle into his new surroundings and his increasingly impressive displays played a significant role of United’s remarkable surge away from the relegation zone during the final months of a season of contrasting emotions at St James Park.
The left-back had quickly become a firm favourite with the Gallowgate faithful and he revealed that feeling is reciprocated as he prepares to get his first full season on Tyneside underway.
Speaking to NewcastleWorld, he said: “This is a really intense city, they do really love the players.
“They get behind the team and I can’t speak highly enough of them.
“The atmospheres are great and the flags around the stadium when we walk on to the pitch.
“They built a brilliant environment for us at the end of last season.”
The emotions felt by the former Southampton and Fulham left-back when he walks out of the Milburn Stand tunnel on Saturday afternoon will be a complete contrast to those he felt on the opening day of last season.
Targett had high hopes of another year of progress with Aston Villa after being named as the club’s Player’s Player of the Season at the end of the 2020/21 campaign.
But the affable left-back had been replaced by half-time in his side’s opening day visit to Watford after Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaila Sarr put the Hornets into a two-goal lead by the time the players made their way back to the dressing room.
Targett watched on as Villa fell further behind to a Cucho Hernandez strike before goals from John McGinn and Danny Ings threatened a comeback that was never completed.
The 26-year-old remained on the bench as Villa recovered with a 2-0 home win over a Newcastle side under the control of former manager Steve Bruce but went on to start in 16 of his side’s next 17 Premier League fixtures.
Despite looking as if he had secured a regular place under new Villa manager Steven Gerrard, Targett found himself cast aside by the arrival of Everton left-back Lucas Digne during the January transfer window.
In a strange twist of fate, Digne could have denied Targett a move to Newcastle after he was unsuccessfully targeted by the Magpies during a transformative month on Tyneside.
The Magpies left-back admitted that the decision to sign the France international was tough to take but gave him the motivation to ‘open a new chapter’ in his career by joining Newcastle.
“It is always difficult when they buy a left-back in January and put him straight in,” he explained.
“That was a difficult one to take to be honest.
“When you are at my age you don’t just settle to be on the bench and I’m not that type of player.
“It was right for me to move on, I enjoyed my time at Villa and open a new chapter in my career.”
Targett clearly bares now ill will towards his former club or the manager that ultimately decided to move him on during the summer transfer window.
The defender confirmed he had ‘honest chats’ with Liverpool legend Gerrard during January but those conversations were not replicated ahead of his move to Tyneside.
“There was no conversation with Gerrard when I left,” he said.
“When I joined on loan he wished me good luck and we had honest chats during that January period.
“I wish him all the best and I left on good terms, I just wish him all the best for the future.”
For Targett, his own future is with Newcastle United and his excitement for what lies ahead is all too clear to see.