Eddie Howe reveals that Newcastle have never been far from his mind
EDDIE HOWE INTERVIEW: ‘It’s absolute mayhem!’: Newcastle boss was working on transfers with his three sons in the back of the car during his family’s US road trip, as he reveals obsession with getting it right at St James’ Park
- Newcastle boss Eddie Howe reveals the mayhem of management on his holiday
- Howe has been dealing with transfers with his sons sitting in the back of the car
- The English manager took Newcastle from 19th to 11th after taking over last year
Eddie Howe was driving across Interstate 10 this summer, away from Los Angeles and into the Californian desert, when he was momentarily grateful for the loss of phone signal.
In the back of the hire car were his three young sons. Their black-and-white jerseys may have been in the suitcase, but they had little time for their dad’s transfer talk.
‘The calls in the car on loudspeaker… they’re difficult when you’ve got three kids in the back — it’s absolute mayhem!’ says Howe, reflecting from the rather more tranquil surrounds of Newcastle United’s pre-season base here in the Austrian countryside.
Eddie Howe wants to add more attacking options to his Newcastle team for the new season
‘You could be speaking to another manager, getting an opinion on a player, and you have to apologise several times for the noise in the back. That’s just how it is.’
Howe is relentless in his pursuit of betterment. It is no coincidence that, shortly after returning from holiday, Newcastle signed goalkeeper Nick Pope and defender Sven Botman. The hard yards had been done on the highways.
‘People say, “Take a couple of weeks off and you’ll be ready to go again”. It doesn’t work like that. The job is 365 days a year. If you miss two days, you could miss something very important.’
Howe’s wife, Vicki, would be forgiven for demanding her husband switch his phone to silent.
Newcastle are tracking Red Bull Salzburg forward Benjamin Sesko (right) to add to their attack
‘She knows me now! There is no issue with her rolling her eyes, or having a go at me, or tutting. Maybe in the early stages of our relationship, when we were working each other out, there might have been. But now, she almost embraces it, “No, I understand, you have to take calls”.
I love my holiday with my kids, but she knows there’s something in the back of my mind that will never go away. You know the success of the whole of next season is dependent on what you do, and she has that understanding. And there were plenty of calls. You are on the other side of the world, but it doesn’t stop, it really doesn’t, you have work to do.’
The family road trip also took in the beaches and water parks of southern California. So, do the boys have the same understanding as their mum?
‘Er, no, not so well. Their criticism of me, as they’re getting older, is they’re more aware when I’m on the phone. If we’re about to go on a water slide, they don’t want to see their dad run off to take a call. But they also understand — they love Newcastle, they love football.’
The one respite came during their adventure into the desert and the Joshua Tree National Park.
‘What a beautiful place. I’d never been into the heart of the desert. The kids loved it, climbed some rocks, it was great fun. And there was no signal, it was lovely! I went missing for one morning. We were in the middle of nowhere, I was just praying we didn’t break down!’
With Howe at the wheel, there appears little danger of engine failure at Newcastle. To spend a few days around him and his squad, beneath the Leogang Mountains of Saalfelden, is to recognise the absolute buy-in of the players into the head coach.
Newcastle have been priced out of moves for some targets as they work within the FFP rules
Howe, by his own admission, has a reserved nature. He seems surprised, then, when we discuss his F-bomb scolding of some players during training earlier in the day. It was not just temperatures of 30°C that had them feeling the heat. ‘Did I say that?’ he queries, albeit with a smile.
He did. ‘If you are lethargic and do not work together, you will get f*** all,’ he had barked at one team during a possession drill. ‘We spoke about this in the team meeting this morning. Where are the leaders? You need to be united. Get together now and discuss what you’re going to do.’
Dan Burn promptly led a huddle and those reprimanded responded to win the session. What struck you was that the outcome mattered. The sliding tackles, arguments and celebrations — even the treatment for a head injury to Emil Krafth — told you that much. All the while, a drone hovered above capturing all the action. ‘That’s a better standard, guys. That’s the energy we want,’ Howe said when it was done.
Howe will still want to bolster his attacking options having signed Sven Botman and Nick Pope
It was such improvement that saw him take Newcastle from 19th to 11th during the second half of last season. From January onwards, they were fourth in the Premier League form table.
Howe’s impact, coupled with the arrival of Saudi-backed owners and signings such as Botman, Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes, has seen expectation just about scale the mountains behind us. The manager is aware that what defines success this season is different to last.
‘It’s a good question,’ he says, when presented with the subject of expectation. ‘It doesn’t intimidate me, but it is potentially a challenge for us — how we adapt to that pressure. We’re not scared of that, we know it comes with the territory.
‘But I think expectations have gone up. I don’t intently follow what is being written and said, but I do get the feeling we’re being talked about in areas of the league where I think…’
Howe oversaw a dramatic turnaround at the club last season taking them from 11th to 19th
Howe tilts his head and raises his eyebrows.
‘But there’s nothing you can do about that. I won’t sit here and challenge it. I will look back to last year and say that we went on an incredible run in a short space of time, but if you look at us statistically as a team, we underperformed in several key markers.
‘To change that and become a stronger team we have to perform better, that is what I’m looking at.’
The presence of players such as Brazil midfielder Bruno has done little to temper excitement, especially when he talks of the Champions League. He is not here for mid-table comfort.
Howe refused to be drawn on where he thought Newcastle would finish next season
‘You want that, you don’t want your players settling for positions in the table that I don’t want either. But there has to be an understanding of where we’ve come from, a team who has been fighting relegation for several years. I don’t think we’re the same squad as we were, we have added better players and are a stronger team. But there are no guarantees, we have to earn the right to be the team that people want us to be.’
Top seven and European qualification, then?
‘You’re not going to get a position from me! I just want to improve and get consistent results.’
Newcastle have not lifted a domestic trophy since 1955. The Saudi owners were in town in January when League One Cambridge won 1-0 at St James’ Park in the FA Cup third round.
‘The cup competitions are hugely important for us,’ says Howe. ‘I won’t sit here and swerve that. Saying that, we wanted to do well last season, and look what happened against Cambridge! But we want to do the city proud.’
Newcastle finally succeeding in bringing Sven Botman to St. James’ Park this summer
With that, we bid farewell, explaining to Howe that we’re going for a bike ride through the hills, much like his players have enjoyed in recent days, save for the afternoon when Ryan Fraser won their go-kart championship. So, what does he have planned?
‘I’m going to my room to watch training back,’ he reveals. ‘The glamour, eh?’
For Howe, every second counts. His wife and children will testify to that. He did afford himself one evening off over the weekend, for a staff-bonding trip to go tobogganing. It will be the only time he entertains the idea of going downhill this season.
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