Jamal Lewis joined Newcastle United from Norwich City with a weight of expectation on his shoulders given his performances for the Canaries and the large fee forked over for his services.
In his debut season at Newcastle, Lewis made 24 appearances for the Magpies but never really lived up to the promise he showed before his £15million switch from Norwich.
His second season on Tyneside was blighted by injury and as a result, the Northern Ireland international made just five appearances for the Magpies with fans speculating if he’d be included in the new manager, Eddie Howe‘s 25-man squad for the second half of the season.
Lewis’ injury problems kept him out of Howe’s squad last year
As suspected, Lewis failed to make the cut for the second half of the season, subsequently going in for groin surgery which would have kept him out for the rest of the campaign anyway. Though he left him out of his squad, Eddie Howe was quick to reassure Lewis that he still had a future at St James’ Park.
This season, however, he’s made just three outings for Howe, one in each competition Newcastle have played in. Despite that, though, Lewis was still called up for the Northern Ireland squad for their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, playing 74 minutes as they beat San Marino 2-0 on Thursday.
Speaking to The Irish News after the game, the 25-year-old opened up about his tough spell at Newcastle: “One hundred per cent there have been dark days.
“Obviously football is all glitz and glamour but it’s the darker side, or the psychological side of football, is not talked about as much as it probably should be.
“It’s been difficult going from playing week in, week out at my first club, Norwich, to not playing and then getting injured and having a tricky injury that I can’t really get on top of, which can play a very negative part in your mental wellbeing and everything.
‘When summer comes we’ll assess’
“But to get on top of it. I’m just looking forward now and I’m really optimistic about my future and my career and hopefully everything can go into an upward trajectory now.
“I will just focus game-to-game. For me now I’m looking to Finland and I want to get another three points for the team, that’s the highest priority for me.
“Then, just moving forward, obviously Newcastle are having a great season, whether I’m involved or not, I’m happy to be part of the group. The gaffer is doing amazing, the boys are doing amazing, so I’m happy to be part of it.
“And then when the summer comes we’ll assess and we’ll see what the best move is for me and the club moving forward.
“It felt good to be on the pitch [in the Northern Ireland win over San Marino], to be honest. I’ve had a tough time over the last couple of years or so just with injuries and health and finally my body’s in a good place; I’m ready to play, but unfortunately I’m not getting the game-time I would probably like at Newcastle.
“So coming away with my national team is always a pleasure and I’m happy that Michael [O’Neill]’s put the trust in me, even though I haven’t got the minutes in my legs, to go out and perform for the team – so I’m just happy to get on the pitch.”
It is highly likely that Lewis will be moved on in the summer as Newcastle begin to rebuild the squad to be able to compete in European competition. If that is the case, hopefully Lewis will land on his feet and start to fulfil his potential that’s definitely in there.