The Insight: Why Eddie Howe has earned the right to ride the current Newcastle storm

 | January 03 | 

5 mins read

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Will Eddie Howe’s overachievements with Newcastle United ultimately speed up his departure? It’s the question that’s been worthy of debate this season, as the Christmas cheer evaporated over the festive period in the north-east. 

Newcastle have now won just one of their last eight matches, and that was against 10-man Fulham. During that time they have been knocked out of both the Carabao Cup and the Champions League, while dropping down to ninth in the Premier League standings. Two years ago, the dizzying heights of ninth would have represented huge success for Howe, and in some ways it still deserves to be treated as such. 

Newcastle United odds

  • Newcastle United to finish in the top four @ 9/1
  • Newcastle to beat Sunderland @ 7/10
  • Newcastle to win the FA Cup @ 12/1

No longer threatened by relegation, Newcastle are a stable top-half club looking to challenge for the European spots. It’s a comfortable position to be in. But once you’ve had a taste of Dom Perignon, you don’t particularly want to go back to Prosecco. As the champagne corks popped in the dressing room at the end of last season, Newcastle and Howe had achieved something truly special. 

After a top-four finish with a squad still limited on quality and depth in certain areas, it appeared their new Saudi owners had hit the jackpot in double quick time. But pushing on from that point is incredibly difficult. The signing of Sandro Tonali has been nothing short of a disaster, and he is now suspended for 10 months following gambling breaches. Harvey Barnes and Tino Livramento have been positive additions, but even so injuries have left their squad short. 

Despite the setbacks, this season there have been glimmers of hope. Howe masterminded wins over both Manchester City and Manchester United in the Carabao Cup, before losing out to Chelsea on penalties. The Magpies have also beaten Arsenal, Aston Villa and United in the league at St James’ Park this season, while that famous night against Paris Saint-Germain will live long in the memory. 

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These spells of success have been few and far between this season for Newcastle however, and they are now 11 points behind fourth-placed Arsenal. It seems unlikely they will be able to close that gap between now and the end of the campaign, but given they are now out of Europe altogether, it isn’t an impossibility. Howe will also have to throw absolutely everything at the Tyne-Wear derby on Saturday. 

Nearly eight years since their last meeting, that FA Cup clash with Sunderland is not only a huge game in terms of local bragging rights, but it is pivotal in Newcastle’s season. They will want to win a trophy this year after coming so close last term, and now the FA Cup is their last shot at doing so. Losing to their fiercest rivals would be a difficult pill to stomach. 

But even a painful defeat shouldn’t mark the end of Howe at Newcastle. They are still way ahead of schedule and ninth in the Premier League is about right for where the club should be at this moment in time. Howe has proved so far that he is cut out for this job, from beating some of England’s biggest clubs, to battering PSG in the Champions League. The route to success isn’t linear and Howe has continuously proved he is building something quite special at this football club. 

All of the success they experienced last year shouldn’t fast-track Howe’s departure. Instead the owners should take a breath, and focus on the long-term project. In terms of building a squad to progress the club, the English boss has done a fantastic job. The Tonali situation is a clear set-back but not Howe’s fault, while the likes of Barnes, Gordon, Livramento and Hall have drastically improved their squad depth. 

They still don’t have the squad to regularly finish in the top four, but that will come with more sustained investment. Howe also deserves credit for bringing through young players, despite being manager of the richest club in the world. Lewis Miley has emerged this season as a real talent, and the connection his team have to the local area will serve him well during these tougher times. 

It would be easy to look at the results compared with this time last year and presume Howe’s own time might be coming to an end. But that would overlook a lot of the good work he has done for a short-term boost. Even the sacking of Wayne Rooney should serve as a warning to Newcastle not to trade in something good for the biggest name available. 

Importantly, there isn’t any rush for Newcastle to be successful. They’ve got the resources, they just need to be spent over a long period of time. For now, they’ve got the right manager in charge to spend their cash wisely and carry them further up the Premier League table. Howe’s successful first full season and venture into the Champions League should be seen for what it was, a huge over-performance from an impressive manager. 

Any talk of getting rid of him for a bigger name is incredibly premature at this stage. But wealthy owners are not renowned for their patience…

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