As the final whistle blew on Newcastle’s thumping 5-1 win over Brentford, television cameras picked out a fan in the crowd holding a scarf bearing the message, “Can we talk about Bruno now?”.
Other than being a pun on Bruno Guimaraes and the earworm song from Encanto, it also reflects how highly the Brazilian midfielder is regarded at St James’ Park.
Guimaraes scored twice against Brentford and was endlessly impressive with his drive and creativity from midfield.
Other flashier and more expensive players may have caught the eye since the Saudi-led takeover one year and one day before this game – but on Tyneside, they love to talk about Bruno.
Alexander Isak was the marquee signing of the summer but is currently injured. Allan Saint-Maximin usually gets the party started, but he too has been sidelined – a 10-minute cameo versus Brentford his first appearance since August following a hamstring problem.
Guimaraes was signed from Lyon for £38million in January, competing with Kieran Trippier for the title of the first marquee signing of the new Toon era.
Asked if the Brazil international was a bargain even at that price, Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said: “I find it difficult with that number, but I would say that he’s a bargain in today’s current climate.
“He’s absolutely a bargain because he’s had a huge effect on the team and the club. In today’s market, that is a relatively modest sum – which I can’t really believe I’m saying – but it is.
“It’s an amazing thing for us to have him, it’s not just the player, it’s the person as well. I can’t say how good a person he is.
“He’s a pleasure to coach and be around. He’s a really positive person, an energiser and someone I love to coach and be with. I think everyone here connected with the club – me, the players, the supporters – absolutely love him.”
‘Bruno is on another level’
Guimaraes has been in superb form for Howe’s team, with two goals against Brentford following an assist against Fulham last time out.
Since making his Premier League debut in February, he has scored seven Premier League goals, more than any other Newcastle player.
Martin Keown told Final Score after the Brentford hammering: “We talk about top signings and Bruno is on another level. He really is a top midfield player.
“He breaks from midfield and just tucks it into the corner. He gives everything to the team and those fans absolutely love him.”
Guimaraes is a player whose importance to Newcastle becomes more evident when he isn’t there.
When he was absent with a hamstring injury, Newcastle failed to win games against Wolves, Liverpool and Crystal Palace. They have won two out of three and scored 10 goals since he returned.
Newcastle are building a team to play in Europe, fulfilling the long-term ambitions of the owners who took over 366 days before they beat Brentford. Guimaraes will surely be a key part in that.
It is a building project which is bang on schedule. Newcastle are fifth in the Premier League, and also fifth on points from the past calendar year. Their 52 from the last 12 months is bettered only by Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.
Kevin Keegan’s legendary Newcastle side of the 1990s were known as the Entertainers, but Howe’s players know how to put on a show.
After beating Fulham 4-1 last week, Newcastle have scored four or more goals in back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since September 2001 under Sir Bobby Robson. This was the first time they had scored five in a Premier League game since May 2016 when they thumped Tottenham 5-1 in Rafael Benitez’s final match in charge.
Newcastle have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League games, winning five and drawing five.
While new era signings such as Guimaraes – the full roster was listed by Newcastle fans on a tifo over the Gallowgate end before kick-off against Brentford – draw the eye, others left over from the Steve Bruce reign deserve a mention.
Not least Miguel Almiron, who after being the butt of a Jack Grealish joke is now flying for Newcastle. He scored a goal of the season contender against Fulham and nearly struck from 25 yards against Brentford, before capitalising on a defensive error to score the fourth of the Magpies’ five against the Bees.
BBC pundit Rachel Brown-Finnis said of the Paraguayan: “This looks like the best version of Almiron that any of us have seen since he arrived at the club. It must be great to be a Newcastle fan right now.”
‘I can feel my anger bursting around inside me’
Things are rather less positive for Brentford right now. They have one clean sheet from their last 21 Premier League away games, and four of Newcastle’s five goals could be attributed to defensive errors.
Goalkeeper David Raya passed the ball straight to Callum Wilson who set up Jacob Murphy for the second. The third came after Aaron Hickey lost the ball in midfield to Guimaraes, who strode 30 yards under no pressure before slotting home.
Ethan Pinnock was introduced as a second-half substitute, and had a horrendous time – it was his short pass to Raya which Almiron snapped up to score, before he turned the fifth into his own net.
Brentford manager Thomas Frank was, unsurprisingly, unimpressed.
He told Match of the Day: “Last year, even though we were playing in the most difficult league, I never thought we would ever lose five on the bounce, we did.
“In general I never thought we would concede five goals, we did today. In life and football it is about how you respond to set backs.
“If you want to win football matches it is relatively important you don’t make one, two, three, or four mistakes leading to goals. To make four mistakes then you lose football games and basically that is it.
“I am a big believer that if you lose 5-1 then don’t complain but first goals in games can shift the momentum. I was looking at our stats that when we went in front in the Premier League 13 times we won 11 them.
“We are of course fuming. I can feel my anger bursting around inside me. It is the same as the players and we will bounce back.”