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As Eddie Howe inks a new long-term deal, optimism is pulsing its way through Newcastle… they have been transformed from a comedy club to serious contenders
- Newcastle United announced Howe has signed a long-term deal with the club
- Howe arrived on Tyneside in November and guided the team to mid-table
- The 44-year-old must now contend with the weight of expectations
Yesterday at a quarter past six in the morning, a group of Newcastle fans were waiting for Eddie Howe at the gates of the training ground.
A few hours earlier, at a comedy club in the city centre, a sold-out season preview event featuring journalists and supporters was pushing back the boundaries of last orders.
Optimism and enthusiasm for Howe and his team are pulsing through Tyneside 24/7 right now. Until recently, the comedy club was Newcastle United.
It says much for the esteem in which fans hold Howe that, during the True Faith live show on Thursday evening, some expressed concern that England will come calling for their head coach before the season is out.
Eddie Howe has inked a new long-term deal to remain in charge at St James’ Park
‘I couldn’t be happier here,’ said Howe when told of such worry yesterday, just a couple of hours before it was announced he had signed a new, long-term contract. ‘I am loving the challenge. I have everything in place I feel I need to be successful.
‘Having a pre-season has been brilliant. I’ve been able to go into detail with the players on how I want us to play. I’ve been able to build stronger relationships. I feel a lot more settled. I’m in a house now and my family will be with me in a few weeks. I certainly feel in a good place.’
The aim for this season, then?
‘We’d love a trophy — I have to dream big on behalf of the club. The challenge is to maintain the form we showed in the second part of last season. But we are in a good place right now.’
The job Howe has done — Newcastle were fourth in the form table from January onwards — coupled with Saudi-backed owners spending £150million on seven new players in the same period, has seen expectation scale unprecedented levels heading into the new campaign. In Brazil’s Bruno Guimaraes, they have a potential superstar.
Sven Botman has arrived from Lille to strengthen the club’s defensive options
All of the talk among fans is of European qualification being a must if they are to maintain their ascent for the summit of the Premier League, as well as keep the likes of Bruno happy. The manager is aware of the feel-good vibe, but also mindful of it.
‘Positivity, enthusiasm, energy, we’re going to need all of those things at the stadium, so I embrace that and encourage that from our supporters,’ said Howe. ‘But for the players, it’s a dangerous thing sometimes. You’ve got to be cool, calm and collected. We’ve got to stick to the processes behind our performance.’
Trust was the one word to emerge from supporters at the live show, a complete faith in Howe to get the very best from the players available, even if there is apprehension over the lack of depth in attacking areas. The latter, though, should be a concern.
England goalkeeper Nick Pope also arrived on Tyneside this summer
Newcastle’s failed pursuit of Leicester midfielder James Maddison this week had the feel of them taking their eye off the ball with regards the need for a striker — Callum Wilson will start against Nottingham Forest today and he is brilliant, but not when he is in the treatment room.
Their search for offensive reinforcement continues, but it was revealing when Howe warned of a limited budget.
‘Financial Fair Play impacts us and will continue to impact us, I think, for a number of years,’ he said. ‘We haven’t got the free rein that maybe has been perceived within the media, that we can go and sign who we want and pay extortionate fees and wages.
‘We’re not in that position and I don’t think we will be for some time. We’re having to be creative and smart and try and make the right additions within the financial constraints we have.’
There are no such constraints on fan fervour — the crowd waiting for Howe at 6am tells you that much. On that, why did he not arrive until quarter past?
‘Yes, I was 15 minutes late!’ he said. ‘I’m sitting a bit uncomfortably because I have a slight back problem, so that’s why I was a little bit late.’
The cause may well be the weight of expectation the Newcastle boss is carrying into the new season.