NEWCASTLE: From bags packed at Newcastle Airport on transfer deadline day to a new deal and a brighter future as a mainstay of Newcastle United’s new-look defense.
The last 15 months have been quite a journey for Fabian Schar.
Under Steve Bruce the Switzerland international looked set for the Newcastle exit door, with games hard to come by and a number of Italian giants, including A.C. Milan, keen to secure his services in January 2021.
However, with the landscape dramatically changing at St. James’ Park at the back end of last year, so too did the prospects of a Schar revival. And so the defender stepped out of the departure lounge, and into the driving seat with Eddie Howe, as the recent Magpies’ stand-in skipper has been handed a fresh two-year deal on Tyneside.
Expressing his joy at the news, Schar told the club website: “I’m absolutely delighted. It’s what I always wanted — to stay here to play for this unbelievable club.
“Since my first day in Newcastle, I felt so comfortable. It’s like a second home and now to stay here for some more years — I’m delighted.”
More years is exactly what it looked like Schar would not be given under the guidance of Bruce.
Not trusted by the former Manchester United legend, Schar was left on the fringes of Newcastle squads and only called upon when injury crises struck among Bruce’s favored defenders.
Schar’s seeming Newcastle stay of execution was only extended when then owner, Mike Ashley, activated a one-year extension to his old deal, with the understanding he was edging closer to a club sale, and had no intention of sanctioning a Bruce summer clear out and signing spree.
Fast forward just a few months and with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia takeover of United, Howe was dropped in to save the Magpies from a Bruce-induced coma.
And save them he has, as well as Schar’s United career.
Schar said: “For the last few months, I knew my contract was ending and I advised my agent that I wanted to stay, if Newcastle wanted me to stay as well.
“Since the new manager walked in, Eddie, I have felt so much difference in this club right now. It is everything I am looking for,” he said. “I want to see where this club can go in the next few years.
“That’s why I haven’t spoken to other clubs. Newcastle was always my first choice.”
When asked exactly what has changed under Howe from the time of Bruce, the 30-year-old former Deportivo center-back said with a smile: “Well, I mean … almost everything.
“They walked in (and changed) the style of football we play now. And there is a positivity about the team, even in the difficult situations.
“From the first day we saw changes, even if the results did not change in the first two or three games.
“I think all of the players feel more positive. You see what we do in training and now on the pitch. What we have done so far since they’ve come in is great. I don’t think anyone expected us to be in the position we are now, climbing up the table,” said Schar.
“I am just really looking forward to everything that’s coming.
“I got a new opportunity with the manager and I have taken it. I have been able to show everyone who I am as a player. I think this is a reward for all that I am doing.
“The confidence he gave me since day one. He came in and spoke to me. I knew him from before as we had contact even before I was at Newcastle, so I know he probably quite liked the style of player I am. His style suits me.
“That’s what I needed on that day. I was struggling and not playing my best as I was not playing. He gave me exactly what I needed. He told me to just play my game. My strength is on the ball.”
The 66-capped international has been a key part of Howe’s team this season, playing the full 90 minutes in 22 of the head coach’s first 24 league and cup matches in charge.
In total, Schar, a signing made by ex-boss Rafa Benitez during his five years with United, has made 98 appearances for the Magpies in all competitions, scoring nine goals.
Speaking about the player, Howe said: “I’ve been delighted with Fabian’s form. He is the ultimate professional and a hugely important player in our dressing room.
“I’m delighted he has committed himself to the club. He is very driven for future success and I’m pleased he will be a part of our future.”
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