As Newcastle’s players and staff stood in a line applauding the supporters serenading them in the lower bank of the Bramall Lane Stand after a record-breaking away win, the clock on the scoreboard looking back at them was still ticking away. It was a good job then that, by that point, Sheffield United’s players had long since traipsed down the tunnel, such was Newcastle’s overwhelming appetite to put on a show, persistently pushing to cut a little bit deeper.
It was in effect game over inside 35 minutes, by which point Eddie Howe’s side were three goals to the good, but Newcastle were relentless, bloodthirsty and ended up bludgeoning the hosts to the tune of eight goals to nil, for their biggest away league win. Stuart McCall, the Sheffield United assistant manager, could not bear to look as Alexander Isak got in on the act, covering his face as the substitute wheeled away in celebration after adding a history-making eighth, the first time there have been eight different scorers in a Premier League match.
After Miguel Almirón weighed in with Newcastle’s sixth on 68 minutes, sweeping home after exchanging passes with Bruno Guimarães and ripping through the hosts’ absent three-man defence, it was hard not to feel for Paul Heckingbottom and his side as the visitors readied a triple substitution. Signed for a combined £160m, enter Isak, Sandro Tonali and Tino Livramento, the latter for his debut. At 7-0, one home fan resorted to burying her head into a book to distract from events on the pitch. Last weekend Sheffield United were guilty of time-wasting at Tottenham – their attempts to eke out a precious victory backfiring in stoppage time – but here they could not wait to be put out of their misery.
Worse still, Sheffield United’s secretary can expect correspondence from the Football Association after supporters threw missiles at the Newcastle players as they celebrated Sven Botman’s deft header from Kieran Trippier’s superb free-kick, the third goal for those who could be forgiven for losing count. Botman and his teammates headed to the nearest corner flag, in front of the Kop Stand and Elliot Anderson was struck by a bottle that exploded as it cannoned off his left foot. A few other bottles were launched towards the celebrating players.
It was hard to believe the first 20 minutes were part of the same game, before which the home club paid an emotional tribute to Maddy Cusack, their former women’s team player who died last week aged 27. A greyscale image of Cusack adorned the programme cover and the flag on top of the main stand flew at half mast. Newcastle were fairly flat initially and Luke Thomas, the Sheffield United wing‑back on loan from Leicester, squandered two decent chances to open the scoring, the second coming after James McAtee, on loan from Manchester City, played a delightful outside-of-the-boot cross in from the right.
Newcastle had to cope with Harvey Barnes departing prematurely with a toe injury but his replacement, Anthony Gordon, crafted the opener for Sean Longstaff and scored a peach to make it five just after the hour. Anderson fed Gordon on the edge of the 18‑yard box and Gordon bounced inside and curled a beautiful right-foot strike into the bottom corner.
The result equals Newcastle’s biggest win, 8-0 at home against Sheffield United’s rivals Sheffield Wednesday at St James’ Park in 1999, when Alan Shearer scored five. “We want to attack well, we want to entertain, we want to be good value when people come to see us play,” Howe said. “One of our fundamental beliefs is that we are always looking to score and with top-quality players it can happen, but very rarely. We’ll enjoy it tonight and then quickly forget about it.”
By the end, the controversy around the first goal felt an awful long time ago. Gordon appeared to handle the ball as he kept play in on the byline before picking out Longstaff, who swept a first-time shot into the net. Even Longstaff seemed unsure as to whether the goal would stand as he embraced Gordon but the goal was cleared by the officials. There was bedlam in the away end when Dan Burn lost Anel Ahmedhodzic at a corner to head in Newcastle’s second.
Jayden Bogle was fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty when he clipped Gordon a couple of minutes after Botman’s headed goal and Callum Wilson, who added Newcastle’s fourth 11 minutes into the second half, could have had a first‑half hat‑trick. But Wilson registered his 15th goal in his past 18 league games with a diving header from Trippier’s cross after Fabian Schär strode forward. There was still plenty more pain for Sheffield United to stomach.
The links with the former manager Chris Wilder will not go away and Heckingbottom’s position is hardly going to be more comfortable after overseeing this humiliation. After six league games, Sheffield United are winless and bottom of the pile. “I think this might be a thing now, by the looks of it,” Heckingbottom said of the recurring speculation. “It has been a really tough week and one we want over.”