'Really hard to take' - Adam Armstrong opens up on Newcastle United exit as he makes St James's Park return
Three years on from when Rafa Benitez sold him to Blackburn Rovers, Armstrong is set to line up at St James’s Park in England’s top-flight, desperate to prove a point against his boyhood club.
The 24-year-old had been predicted to do great things on Tyneside. At one point, in his academy days, he was even likened to Alan Shearer.
And having made a handful of first-team appearances under Alan Pardew, Armstrong’s big break looked to have arrived in the summer of 2017.
Newcastle had just been relegated to the Championship and Armstrong, fresh from scoring 20 goals on loan at Coventry City, started the opening two games against Fulham and Huddersfield Town.
That, however, was a false presumption, with Benitez deciding Armstrong was better off going out on loan.
“Newcastle wanted me to go on loan (after returning from Coventry), another one,” Armstrong told reporters on the south coast.
“They wanted me to join a lower Championship club and that was really hard to take.”
He joined Barnsley that summer before the following campaign enjoying half-season spells at Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn.
With the player not in Benitez’s first-team plans as he prepared for the 2017/18 Premier League campaign, Armstrong departed.
He said: “You could say it made life harder but it’s one of them. You learn things, new ways of playing under a new manager.
"I scored some goals at Barnsley and Bolton but all those loan spells got me to where I am today.”
The striker finished as the Championship’s second top goalscorer last season with 28 goals – earning a £15m move for Southampton.
He’s expected to start when Newcastle’s host Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.
Armstrong added: "Returning to Newcastle will be good, obviously. I played them twice while I was at Blackburn so it's something that I’m looking forward to.
"I’d like to think there will be lots of friends there. I’ve got a lot of family up there who are Newcastle fans, friends as well - but I think they will be Southampton fans at the weekend!”