It was not until Thursday’s draw was made that Newcastle United fully appreciated what their return to the Champions League meant for the club, the supporters and the city as a whole.

Only now has the magnitude of what manager Eddie Howe and his players achieved last season in securing a top four finish ahead of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea truly sunk in.

The club will face Paris Saint Germain, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan in the group stage. It is, on the face of things, about as tough a test as they could have imagined.

But it is also a mouth-watering prospect that will delight their Saudi Arabian owners, who must be thrilled at the prospect of pushing the club – and their own – brand in the biggest and most prestigious club competition on the planet, especially as they will face the Qatar-owned PSG in the group stage.

But for supporters who once enjoyed regular European adventures in the 90s and 00s, before former owner Mike Ashley imprisoned the club in chains of unambitious mediocrity, this is a magical moment.

Between 2007 and 2021, Newcastle played in Europe just once, after Alan Pardew had somehow guided the team to a shock – and isolated – top five finish in 2012.

Newcastle reached the quarter finals of the Europa League, narrowly losing to Benfica over two legs. It was the high water mark of the Ashley years, with two relegations from the Premier League offering a more suitable and accurate appraisal of his joyless approach.

So you can forgive Newcastle supporters for reacting to Thursday’s draw with a mixture of giddy excitement and wide-eyed optimism. After a decade in the European wilderness, Newcastle are back where so many of their fans and local pundits feared they would never return.

Champions League nights, under the lights at St James’ Park, will unleash the best of Geordie tribalism in an explosion of noise and colour. Uefa, if not the clubs they will face, will be delighted to have them back for the spectacle alone.

Indeed, while some have predictably called Group F a Group of Death and others have described the prospect of facing three of the grandest names in European football as a sobering reality check for a club that has not played on European football grandest stage for 20 years, the reaction on Tyneside has been one of joy not foreboding.

At first, Howe admitted he was slightly taken aback by the quality of the teams they will face but it was quickly supplanted by a determination to try and ensure they not only compete with, but finish above, at least one of their rivals.

“It took me a few seconds to process it,” said Howe. “You’re looking at it with pure excitement. There is no negativity from any of us internally towards the draw.

“We look at it positively, you can look at it romantically, but the romance isn’t there for me because we are here to do a job. We are here to represent the club in the best way, we are here to make the supporters proud…

“It is hard and it is challenging, but there are some great European games to experience and some great places to visit for our supporters. The travel distance isn’t too bad either so when you add it all together it’s been a great thing.

“The mentality for us, it doesn’t matter who we play, there has to be an attitude of no fear and no doubts. Let’s embrace the challenges it will bring. Those teams have been playing in Europe for many, many years and have excelled. So, we have no doubts about the size of the challenge, but bring it on. That is how we feel and that is how I will encourage my players to think. We have to see it like that.

“It brought home what it means to be in the Champions League. There has been a lot of talk but it didn’t seem real until now. We have a target in mind, we can visualise it now…”

That target will be to prolong Newcastle European adventure until after Christmas, whether that is in the Champions League or by finishing third and dropping into the Europa.

“We have to believe we can win the group,” continued Howe. “I’m not necessarily sure that should be the expectation, but I think we can.”

Asked what Newcastle would bring to the competition, Howe added: “You can’t talk about Newcastle without talking about the supporters. They will bring a uniqueness, themselves.

“The passion, the support, the loyalty and the energy they will bring to the competition will be an unbelievable addition to the Champions League.

“Wherever we travel, we will travel in numbers and with huge support. It will be really interesting to see how Europe reacts to that.

“You think of former years and how well Newcastle have performed in European competitions and what energy it brought the city so hopefully we can see the same again and we can embrace the competition and do it proud.”

Newcastle have not had an easy start to the season and do not have an easy Champions League draw, but for now, all that matters is they are back competing at home and abroad. Europe had better brace itself. The Geordies are back.