TO think Anthony Gordon couldn't get in Newcastle's team this time last year.

Twelve months down the line, is there a Premier League XI he wouldn't improve?

Gordon was a spectator when the Magpies dismantled Tottenham in April last year and by the time he was introduced for the final 20 minutes that day, Eddie Howe's side had already scored their six goals.

It was the same the week later against his former club Everton when he got three minutes from the bench, a 4-1 win already wrapped up.

And although he was handed a start the next time out against Southampton, he was hooked at half-time when United were 1-0 down. They went on to win 3-1.

Compare Gordon's situation then and now. No longer is the 23-year-old getting to grips with what Eddie Howe demands, he now sets the tone and, when they play like they did on Saturday, epitomises all that is good about United.

Not only did he provide the assists for the first goal and the fourth as well as scoring the second, he created eight chances, the most on the pitch and made 18 crosses, the most on the pitch. He was the best player on the pitch.

Never mind wondering whether Gordon will be in Gareth Southgate's squad for this summer's European Championships. Surely the more pressing debate is whether the Newcastle winger will be in the England starting XI.

On Saturday's display, it would be hard to make a case to say otherwise. He'd certainly be ahead of James Maddison in the pecking order on this showing.

Had Maddison decided differently in the summer, he'd have been playing alongside rather than against Gordon. Let's not pretend the former Leicester forward wouldn't improve the Magpies but if he headed for Tyneside at the weekend intent on showing the United faithful what they'd missed out on, he failed miserably. Maddison was woeful, as were his teammates, booked and then jeered when hauled off in the second half. Maddison and Tottenham were mocked by the home supporters, who sang: 'It's happening again'. They won't be looking forward to next season's trip to the North East.

And Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, Burnley, Brighton, Manchester United and Brentford won't be looking forward to playing Newcastle, who, despite their injury woes, have found form at the perfect time. It's now 10 points from 12 since the Manchester City FA Cup defeat and the international break that followed and the run-in looks relatively kind. The Magpies are now favourites rather than merely contenders in the battle to be playing Europa League football next season.


Spurs arrived on Tyneside having lost just two of their last 10 games. They had loads of possession - 73% - but no answers. They desperately lacked the verve and enthusiasm of Gordon, who was moved from the left to the right and set the standard with one very early burst down the flank. It was a warning to Tottenham of what was to come. How the visitors will have wished the former Everton forward was again a substitute as he had been last season.

"You always move on quite quickly and forget how some players have accelerated really sharply in terms of their involvement and their performances," said Howe of the England forward.

"He's one of those. This season from minute one in pre-season he showed a real determination to come back, have an impact and how he's grown during the season has been brilliant witness. Again today, different position but same Anthony.

"Anthony’s ability to play left, right and central was something that really struck us when we were given the option of signing him."

His persistence created the first goal for Alexander Isak before he scored the second 90 seconds later - becoming only the second player after Jamie Vardy to score against both Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs in the same season.

Never did Tottenham look likely to stir into life and launch a comeback. Indeed, their first shot on target didn't come until five minutes into the second half. Just 60 seconds later, Isak scored his second and Newcastle's third, before the outstanding Fabian Schar wrapped up the victory late on.

"The first goal was massive but the second was probably most crucial," said Gordon.

"At St James' if you concede two goals it's going to be a really long day. We can press, suffocate you and the crowd get involved, it was suffocating. I've been there as an away player and I know how that feels."

Consider the lengthy injury list and the makeshift defence - with Jacob Murphy and Elliot Anderson playing as wing-backs - and this Spurs victory was easily as impressive as last season's.

And taking the many obstacles into account, it's not hard to make a case that Howe deserves as much credit for guiding Newcastle to their current position as he did for leading them into the Champions League last term.

“I never think I'm the best one to judge myself, really, I'll leave that to you, I'm sure you all do that on a regular basis," said the head coach.

“For me, you just try to do the job to the best of your ability every single day and of course as you go through different experiences, you learn and hopefully you grow and develop and become better."

That's certainly been the case with Gordon, who is desperate to maintain his and the side's current form.

"If you remember last year we did similar, the end of the season was when we showed our best form," he said.

"Down the stretch is the most important part. We feel good, we're picking up pace and we just have to keep going."