NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United Boss Eddie Howe believes that the club’s league position will be the main obstacle to overcome when attempting to attract players in January — not the location of the city.
However, the head coach said that his focus is not on the winter transfer window. Instead, he remains fixed on getting the best out of his current group and kick-starting their Premier League campaign.
Former Aston Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor claimed on the radio this week that players would rather sign for newly promoted Brentford for less money than go to United, because “no one wants to live in Newcastle.”
But Howe said that this could not be further from the truth.
“That is not accurate,” said Howe, whose bottom of the pile Magpies take on 19th-placed Norwich City at St James’ Park tomorrow evening. “I have not seen Newcastle in the light yet, but I have only heard amazing things about it as a place to live and the town centre.
“We will have no problem attracting players to Newcastle for a whole host of reasons,” he added. “I don’t think that is going to be an issue, but what I do think will be an issue is our league position.
“That is not my focus at the moment, it is preparing the team for a big week ahead.”
When pressed, Howe revealed that he does have “one eye” on trading in January, but cannot lose track of the gravity of the task on hand, with United winless in their opening 13 games.
“We have half an eye on January and that is the same for me no matter what time of year,” Howe said. “As a manager, you are always thinking about how you can evolve your team and improve your squad.”
“Trust me when I say, my main focus is trying to get the best out of the players we have here and our next game and the games beyond.
“I am working extremely hard to make sure they produce their best performances — and I think that is the best use of my time at the moment.
“It has been a very busy time. It has been a very busy few days for us. We are looking forward to the challenges of this week.”
Only Derby County in 2000-01 have ever worked their way to Premier League safety from a winless run as long as United’s at the start of a top-flight season.
And this week — in which United take on the Canaries and fellow strugglers Burnley on home turf — feels like a crucial junction in their survival fight.
Howe said: “We are aware of how important these games are, but it is a dangerous thing to look too far ahead.
“You just have to look, firstly, training then the game tomorrow. It is always a step-by-step process,” he added. “The moment you start looking too far ahead, you can take your eyes off the priorities — and the priorities are the players and being in the best shape we can for the next game.”
Howe’s tenure has opened up with a home draw against Brentford and a predictable loss at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday against Arsenal.
And while the Magpies’ points tally has only been improved by one in that time, Howe has seen positives upon which to build.
“Going back to the last game I look at the amount of chances we created. We showed good attacking threat,” said Howe. “Yes, there were moments the other way that weren’t great. But I saw enough of us as an attacking side — and I did at Arsenal, too, to be honest.
“I wouldn’t say that we created really clear cut chances, but I know that we created enough against a really tough opponent to know that we will be in games from an attacking perspective,” he added. “We have to improve the defensive side of things. Martin Dubravka returned and played very well.
“So for us there were positives in defeat. We do know that we can’t keep saying that and we have to turn these small margins the other way.”