Joelinton may have been wearing a black ICON baseball cap, but it did not take the youngsters training inside the barn at Newcastle United’s training ground long to notice the towering figure taking a seat on the touchline to watch them play.
There was soon a queue of beaming six-year-olds lining up for a photograph with their hero at the end of the session. We have all seen the flags and Hawaiian shirts in the stands on match days, and heard that chant, but these scenes on Monday evening were another timely reminder of Joelinton’s newfound popularity.
In reality, there has not been a Newcastle supporter young or old who has not been moved by this redemption story. The man once considered a £40m flop is now the frontrunner to win the club’s player of the year award following a remarkable transformation that has mirrored his side’s own turnaround under Eddie Howe.
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It is important to note that, even during the difficult moments, Joelinton was always considered one of the best trainers at Newcastle, but the 25-year-old has been reborn as an aggressive ‘weapon’ on match days under Howe and welcomed the detail his manager has given him – right down to looking over his shoulder while pressing.
The idea of Joelinton thriving in the middle of the park would have once been scoffed at, but the Brazilian has embraced a change of role since first playing there for Newcastle after the Magpies went down to 10 men against Norwich last November. Ciaran Clark’s red card that night may just end up saving Newcastle millions in the transfer market as Joelinton is now one of the first names on the team sheet under Howe after making the position his own.
As well as working with club staff after training, both on the pitches and in the meeting room, Joelinton has continued to log on to Zoom in his own time with his personal analyst, Diego Vieira, to study the position. It was Vieira and his team who helped prepare a dossier for Joelinton in an effort to give the number seven a head start when he first played in a deeper role under Howe. This video package was informed by what Joelinton had told Vieira about the head coach’s demands during training sessions and, also, by footage of how Bournemouth’s midfield functioned with and without the ball when Howe was in charge.
Yet it may be premature to pigeonhole Joelinton as a combative midfielder just yet. An increasing number of modern coaches use the word functions rather than positions now and Howe has tapped into Joelinton’s versatility in recent weeks by using him as a striker, left winger and central midfielder. The reality is that Joelinton has all the ingredients, whether it is his work ethic and tactical intelligence or his physicality and technical skills, to play in a variety of roles as Vieira, himself, has observed.
“He’s a good weapon to have because by shifting him and giving him different tasks in a game, you can change the whole scenario of the match,” the founder of the Outlier FC agency told ChronicleLive. “If you are losing a match with 10 to 15 minutes to go, and Joey is playing as a central midfielder, he can go and play as a forward or if the right-back on the opposing team is having a tough time and losing a lot of duels you want to exploit more, you can maybe have Bruno as a left-sided central midfielder and Joey on the left wing.
“You don’t waste a sub. You just use him in a way that you know is going to benefit the team and him because he’s willing to do it and does it so well. If I was a head coach, I would definitely love to have Joey in my squad.”
Vieira is part of a team of specialists supporting Joelinton behind the scenes alongside fitness coach Felipe Lira, coach Leonel Villeroy and physiotherapist Andreas Ouogko. Lira, who works with Team Villeroy ProFuncional and Fusion5 performance, linked up with Joelinton last September after the Newcastle player reached out to his compatriot in a bid to improve his performances.
The pair train together for between two and four hours every week depending on Joelinton’s schedule with Newcastle and always have the 25-year-old’s work with club staff in mind so he is not overloaded. Rather than lifting weights, which Joelinton will already do with his sessions with Newcastle’s staff in the gym, Lira’s work has focused on explaining the ‘different types of musculature actions – concentric, eccentric and isometric’ and helping Joelinton understand how to use his body better.
Equipment such as TRX suspension trainers, resistance bands, sandbags, Swiss yoga balls, kettle bells, slide board slam balls and yoga blocks are all used as part of functional strength exercises which reflect on the field situations, such as body contact duels with an opponent, and complement the work Joelinton does at Newcastle’s training ground. Perhaps, it should not come as a surprise that it has often been Joelinton’s opponents, rather than the Brazilian, who are now going to ground when they jostle for the ball whereas once it used to be the other way around.
Mobility exercises have also helped reduce some of the risk of joint injuries and Joelinton’s ankle mobility, alone, has improved by more than two centimetres. This may seem like a marginal gain but, on a practical level, it has allowed Joelinton to jump even higher to head the ball while also landing more safely on a single foot after doing so.
These sorts of measurements are monitored on Joelinton’s team’s own data app, which also keeps track of his quality of sleep, delayed onset muscular soreness and even the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) from games. It is all part of a 24/7 effort that is, clearly, paying off and, as far as Lira is concerned, Joelinton now ‘looks like he was made for the Premier League’.
“I keep saying to him that success is not luck,” Lira told ChronicleLive. “It is cause and effect of our daily actions and decisions, and he is showing what he wants to achieve but with hard work, discipline, patience and daily effort.
“He’s been so dedicated and interested in improving his performance. That is what is helping him a lot.
“Since we met, it’s been a pleasure to work with him. He’s very keen to learn every single day. With a full pre-season, I strongly believe he will get even better, which is very scary. His dedication and desire to get better makes him special and gives us all the challenge to make him even better every day so that’s our real goal.”
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