EPL

Eddie Howe grateful to Newcastle hierarchy for support through tough spell

By Sports Desk April 14, 2024

Eddie Howe has thanked the Newcastle hierarchy for backing him in his hour of need after emerging from a dark winter.

The Magpies romped to a 4-0 Premier League victory over top-four candidates Tottenham at St James’ Park on Saturday to boost their own hopes of European qualification despite missing 11 players through injury or suspension, six of whom could be conceivably named in his strongest starting line-up.

It was their third win in four games since the international break, a run in stark contrast to a sequence of eight defeats in 10 outings in all competitions around the turn of the year, during which the club’s Saudi-backed owners remained steadfast despite the first murmurings of disquiet around their 46-year-old head coach.

Howe said: “I always say the most important thing for me is not during the good times, but the difficult moments which will inevitably be there.

“There will always be negative and difficult moments and it’s the support you get then that is the defining factor.

“You need stability, calmness, level heads and to be allowed to focus on your work. The people behind the scenes have done all of that for me.”

Howe, his staff and his players have done much the same in the face of an injury list which has remained stubbornly lengthy throughout a challenging campaign.

On Saturday, they started with their back-up goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, winger Jacob Murphy at right-back, third-choice right-back Emil Krafth and left-back Dan Burn playing as two of three central defenders and left-sided frontman Anthony Gordon operating on the right.

But it was the way in which the players implemented Howe’s game-plan to the letter which won the day as they lured Spurs into their trap by allowing them possession and then hitting them with devastating counter-punches.

Alexander Isak and Anthony Gordon punished two errors from defender Micky van de Ven inside as many first-half minutes to set the ball rolling, and the imperious Sweden international ran away from his Netherlands counterpart after the break to make it 3-0 before Fabian Schar completed the job at the death with a bullet header.

With six games to go, Newcastle could yet drag themselves to within three points of last season’s tally of 71 – and they will have key midfielder Bruno Guimaraes available to aid their cause after he safely negotiated an 11th outing on nine bookings – although Howe is refusing to look too far ahead.

He said: “We’ve got a long way to go to get there. Six games to go and we’ll give our best to try to win every one.”

Opposite number Ange Postecoglou headed back south chastened, but ready to come out fighting once again.

He said: “There’s no point sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. There’s another game in two weeks. We’ve just got to get ready for that.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened to us and it won’t be the last. It’s part of our growth. Sometimes that growth is painful. That’s part of it and you’ve just got to embrace it, use it and get ready for the next challenge.”

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