Eddie Howe: How the manager turned Newcastle around in 150 days with Saudi Money

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Eddie Howe: The date is November 30, 2021. After Ciaran Clark’s red card, Newcastle was held to a 1-1 draw against Norwich at home. They have failed to win a game this season and are currently rooted at the bottom of the Premier League, six points adrift of safety.

Eddie Howe: How the manager turned Newcastle around in 150 days with Saudi Money

The new owners had taken over seven weeks prior, promising Champions League football and trophies in the future. Fans are concerned after new manager Eddie Howe’s third game in charge.

Questions linger regarding the new owners’ skills, who attempted to acquire Unai Emery from Villarreal in the first place. Some are debating whether or not a Championship reset would be beneficial.

That nadir now seems like another world, despite the fact that it was just 150 days ago.

Newcastle United beat Norwich City 3-0 in the reverse fixture on Saturday to move up to ninth place in the table, 14 points clear of the relegation zone. After beloved Brazilian idols, Joelinton and Bruno Guimaraes scored, fans at Carrow Road created a carnival scene.

Howe’s 38 points in 23 games would very certainly be enough to keep the squad in the Premier League. Newcastle would have qualified for Europe if they had scored the same number of points per game as they did last season.

Despite spending £85 million in the January transfer window, the turnaround has been amazing, prompting fans to urge Eddie Howe to be considered for manager of the year.

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Even Eddie Howe admits that “the run of results has been quicker than expected,” but the “football-obsessed” 44-year-old has offered the appropriate retort to those who questioned if the former Bournemouth manager was up to the task.

The season’s turning point for Newcastle

Many would refer to Newcastle’s upward trajectory as a result of investing £85 million on five players in January, about a third of the Premier League’s total outlay.

Eddie Howe: How the manager turned Newcastle around in 150 days with Saudi Money

That’s the kind of advantage you may get from having Saudi Arabian owners with access to the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. Other elements, though, have played a role.

As a result of Clark’s dismissal during Newcastle’s 2-2 draw with Norwich in November, Joelinton was moved to midfield, where he has arguably been the club’s greatest player this season as a born-again enforcer.

However, some club insiders believe the win at Leeds on January 22 marked a turning point.

Existing players like Joe Willock, Allan Saint-Maximin, Fabian Schar, and striker Jonjo Shelvey were instrumental in the hard-fought triumph. “Today we discovered that the squad is resilient,” Eddie Howe stated at the time. “Hopefully, it will change the course of our season.”

The club’s first away win of the season came at a crucial time, as it offered a much-needed morale boost as the players prepared to go to Saudi Arabia for some warm-weather training.

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Given that the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) owns 80% of the club, there were lots of doubts about whether the trip was merely a public relations stunt to bolster the image of PIF Chairman Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

However, there were no photos that had been staged. Howe and his team worked out and met with authorities, including PIF governor and Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who has visited St James’ Park several times this season.

Players were given time off to relax, so they went to the desert and danced with some locals. Meanwhile, Howe got down to business, preparing the players for a vital stretch of the season and pursuing transfer targets. In the manager’s opinion, though, using the trip to deepen the link between players and new coaching staff was critical.

Eddie Howe: How the manager turned Newcastle around in 150 days with Saudi Money

On another trip to Dubai in March, Howe added, “Covid hit the country hard in many different ways.” “But, from a football standpoint, it encouraged separation, with players exercising in smaller groups and switching positions. You lost the sense that the team was working as a unit.

“It is necessary to work on team cohesiveness and spirit; it will not come by itself. It’s critical to get the men back together and to bring in the injured players as well. It’s critical that we treat everyone with the same level of respect and kindness.”

The first game back was a 3-1 triumph over Everton, which lifted them out of the bottom three and extended their nine-game unbeaten streak, putting them 10 points clear of danger.

The second coming of Howe

Howe is nearly monastic in his devotion to his work.

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Fans arrived at the training site at 5.30 a.m. to catch him when he went in at 6.20 a.m. because he arrives so early for work.

On non-football matters, the father of three can be tough to engage with, as evidenced by recent queries about the club’s Saudi owners, but this extends to other topics as well. Questions about culture are kindly addressed, but they don’t yield anything. He’s previously stated that he like the 1980s pop band A-Ha and that he can play the piano.

It’s difficult not to picture him as a proper steady Eddie.’ He never allows himself to get too euphoric or low after outcomes, as his mentor, famed basketball coach John Wooden, did.

Howe was heavily damaged by Bournemouth’s relegation in 2020. His personal involvement in the club was absolute, having previously played for them and brought them from League Two to the Premier League and keeping them there for five seasons. However, going down taught me some “huge” things.

“All of my previous years in management had been quite successful,” he added. “That was my first major setback, and it was extremely painful, but it taught me a lot. During my time off, I conducted a lot of self-reflection. If a plan I’d implemented worked, that was terrific. Why not, if not?

Eddie Howe: How the manager turned Newcastle around in 150 days with Saudi Money

“I didn’t feel like I’d been away from work (during that break) since I was eager to learn more about what I’d delivered. In ten years, I might look back and say that was the best thing that ever happened to me personally, but not for the club. It was excruciatingly uncomfortable.”

Newcastle seemed to have benefited from the interval of reflection.

Howe’s work ethic, as well as his ability to extract the best from an existing squad and blend it with the signings that affluent owners can bring, has resulted in a heady cocktail that supporters are savoring.

“You can’t promise success,” he added, “but you can pave the way for it.”

Newcastle’s foundations have never looked so strong.

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