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'Anything is realistic now' - Aussie cricketer Matt Renshaw's programme column

Every edition of UNITED – the Magpies’ official matchday programme – includes a piece penned by a guest columnist, usually a high-profile Newcastle supporter. To give nufc.co.uk readers a flavour, we’ve re-produced the latest one below…

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Australian international cricketer MATT RENSHAW will be in the crowd at St. James’ Park tonight for the first time since the club’s revivifying takeover last October. Life’s going well for the left-handed batsman, who made his Test debut for the Baggy Green in 2016 and recently joined up with Somerset for the 2022 English domestic season. Here, the 26-year-old – a Magpies supporter all of his life – speaks exclusively to UNITED as Eddie Howe’s charges prepare to round off their home campaign…

I came back to England to play for Somerset earlier this year and I was at the Man City game last Sunday. My wife and I actually went on a little road trip; we’re based in Taunton and we drove up to Scotland, drove around there, came down to Newcastle and then headed over to Manchester. While we were there, we stayed with Paul Woolston, who’s my cousin.

Paul was obviously here at Newcastle for a number of years and sadly had to retire from football in March, at the age of just 23. Being a professional sportsman myself, I understand where he’s coming from and how he’s had to put his whole life and soul into becoming a footballer. It’s tough and I really feel for him, but he’s had a bit of time to process it now and the staff at Manchester United, where he’s been playing since he left Newcastle, have been really good with him. It was just nice to catch up with him and see each other face to face for the first time since 2015!

The last time I did anything for the programme was 2016, when I spoke from the team hotel in Melbourne the week before I played for Australia against Pakistan at the MCG! That all happened very quickly. From nowhere I was playing for the Test team in front of 90,000 people. It’s weird, looking back, to think I did that. Watching football teams play in front of those big crowds, like I did at the Etihad Stadium last Sunday, you see how much passion’s on display among the supporters and it would have been exactly the same among the cricket fans at the MCG that week.

There’ve been ups and downs with cricket since then but I’m really happy with where I am at the moment with cricket, off the field and I’m enjoying what life’s giving me. Coming back to Somerset, it was like I’d never left. It’s four years since I first played for them, but the majority of the players are still there, the coaches are still there and it’s been great to get back and see some close friends. It felt like I had unfinished business; the first time I played for Somerset, I broke my finger halfway through the season. I always felt like I had a lot more cricket to play for them, just it wasn’t to be at the time. But I did say to them that I was like a boomerang – I’d always come back at some point!

I was born in Middlesbrough, and my Mum and her family were Newcastle fans when I was growing up. We moved over to New Zealand when I was young, and then over to Australia. I always got a Newcastle jersey off my Grandma and Grandad every year, and I always had a soft spot for the club. When I started watching football myself I obviously gravitated towards Newcastle and the likes of Alan Shearer, Shay Given and Lomana LuaLua – who I really liked. The first time I scored a goal in any game of football, I actually did a somersault like LuaLua – my Dad was like ‘what are you doing?!’ I loved following Newcastle and I’ve followed them ever since. I kept getting jerseys until my Grandma died seven years ago and now I’m trying to keep that connection going.

Watching some of the football that’s been played recently has been great, and a bit of payback for the tough times over the last few years. When the rumours started to spread about the takeover in October, I was like ‘it’s not happening’ – there’d been so many fake stories, I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw the official announcement. When it was all confirmed, it was a massive deal even in Australia. We basically became the richest club in the world overnight, so it was well-documented over there.

I think anything is realistic now. Obviously I was at Man City last week and, with them, it took a fair few years to get to the level they’re at currently. After the takeover and especially since Eddie Howe came in, we’ve done really well. There’ll probably be changes to the squad in the future but even the players now have shown they can play good football. There’s plenty of potential for that to get better and better as new players come in, and that’s really exciting.

I’m going to be at St. James’ Park tonight for the first time since we played Southampton the season we got relegated. I’ll be driving straight back to Taunton after the game as tomorrow’s likely to be a training day for me – it’ll be a tough journey and I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t Newcastle! Looking further ahead, I think you’re always wanting to play for Australia and play Test cricket – if you weren’t thinking like that, I don’t think you should be playing as much. But I’m also trying to focus on the here and now – playing for Somerset, trying to win games for them and contributing to the team. At the end of the day, you play cricket to win and have fun with your mates – and you don’t have more fun than when you’re winning and scoring runs. I’ve re-thought what it means to play cricket recently and, for me, it’s all about having fun and having success with your team.

"The first time I scored a goal in any game of football, I actually did a somersault like LuaLua – my Dad was like ‘what are you doing?!’"

Matt Renshaw

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