NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United’s long-term plans have “impressed” Eddie Howe but the club’s new manager knows winning a short-term relegation battle is the only way to unlock the team’s undoubted potential.
Howe was officially unveiled to the media on Wednesday at St. James’ Park and he laid out his own Magpies ambitions before being snapped up alongside the club’s co-owner Amanda Staveley and her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi.
The former Bournemouth manager, who signed a two-and-a-half-year deal on Monday, talked glowingly of what the future may hold for United.
Howe knows, however, that making sure the Magpies remain in the English Premier League this season is the only thing that matters right now.
Speaking of his reasons for taking the job, Howe said: “Everything just felt right. The pull of the club is huge, the size, the history, the new owners when meeting them, the new ambitious plans, knowing some of the players. It was a perfect fit for me. I have had other options but I wanted to take my time, re-energize, and now I feel ready to start work.
He was taken aback during his debut.
“This is the first time I have been here (St. James’ Park) as manager of Newcastle, and it is an amazing feeling. I can’t describe it,” the 43-year-old manager said. “When you walk through the doors and down the tunnel and imagine bygone eras, previous players, previous managers, the names connected with walking down that tunnel, it is incredible.
“It certainly brought a feeling rarely experienced in football.”
Howe takes the job with United in a perilous position within the top flight of English football.
The Magpies sit 19th in the table and have not won any of their 11 Premier League matches this campaign. It is a position few teams have managed to survive from and it ranks as the worst league start in United’s 129-year history. But Howe is sure he has the tools to guide Newcastle from the choppiest of choppy waters.
“I am absolutely confident we can, but make no promises on that,” he said when asked about avoiding relegation to the Championship, the second tier of English football.
“All I can do is lead the club to the best of my abilities. I will give everything to the job. I will commit 100 percent every single day to try and bring success to Newcastle, for everyone associated with the club.
“I believe we have the ability within the squad to achieve that aim. It is going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifices to get there. They need to give everything they have.”
Howe is being seen by some as a less high-profile appointment than many had expected, especially given the club’s majority owner, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, and its considerable reach, influence, and wealth.
That is not a view shared by the United faithful, which has welcomed Howe with open arms.
“It has been incredible (the reaction from fans),” he said. “I am not on social media so haven’t fully sampled what people have been saying. But the level of interest is a new experience for me and I will relish it. I will really buy into the culture here and treat the football club like it is my own family.”
When asked about his long-term future, Howe was coy. He knows that turning around the club’s fortunes could lead to brighter days down the line. But he accepts that even the January transfer window — just nine games away — along with improvements and spending are not yet of concern.
“We have had some very good conversations,” Howe said. “I have been impressed by the owners’ vision for the club as I don't look into that too much because it is all about the short-term and the position of the team. We need to address that very quickly.
“The aim is to stay in the league, to avoid relegation and that really is my main focus at the moment. Everything else can wait for another day.”
Can Howe be the man to take the club to the promised land and silverware?
“I hope so,” he said.
Newcastle United have not won a major trophy since 1969 and a domestic honor since 1955.
“But I have been in football long enough to know that looking too far ahead can be a waste of energy,” Howe said. “I would be foolish to look too far ahead."
Howe confirmed he will bring with him coaches Jason Tindall, Stephen Purches, Simon Weatherstone, and Dan Hodges.
Graeme Jones, the club’s interim manager, will retain his place on the coaching staff. The role of director of football, however, is yet to be decided and Howe addressed links to Liverpool's soon-to-depart Michael Edwards, a close friend of the new Newcastle boss.
“Absolutely not. I know nothing of Michael Edwards’ future,” he said when quizzed.
Meanwhile, the club played down links to former Chelsea transfer chief Michael Emenalo.