Eddie Howe tells his Newcastle squad to enjoy the moment after their amazing turnaround
NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe urged his players to enjoy the moment this weekend as his side look to upset title-chasing Liverpool and claim their fifth Premier League victory on the bounce.
The Magpies are unbeaten in the league on home turf in 2022, and only Manchester City, West Ham, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have recorded victories at St James’ Park this season. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds will try to join that group on Saturday.
Newcastle, however, are riding the crest of a wave, with four straight victories over Norwich City, Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers propelling them from the fringes of the relegation zone to the top half of the top flight. They now sit in ninth place, with Premier League survival all but guaranteed.
Howe wants his players to enjoy the positive atmosphere sweeping over Tyneside — because he knows all too well that in football, everything can change in a heartbeat.
“If you build togetherness and a spirit and everyone is fighting for the same goal, I think you’ve got a great chance,” Howe said of the renewed bonds between the club, the players and the fans since the takeover by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in October.
“Also unity between the players and supporters, and having a good environment to play in, is key. There are so many other little things that go toward success and failure that you can never pinpoint one thing. But it’s a combination of different things that has worked for us.
“We’ll enjoy it while we’re in this moment because we know how quickly football can change, as we’ve seen. We have to guard against getting too high.”
Heading into the weekend in the top half of the table is a position few at United, or the wider football community, expected the club to be in at this stage given their desperately poor first half of the season.
No team in the history of the Premier League has avoided relegation after failing to win any of their first 14 games. But with four games left to play it now seems likely that Newcastle will be the first.
Many people are looking at the tough run-in the Magpies face — after this week’s visit by Liverpool they have games against league leaders Man City away and fourth-place Arsenal at home, before ending the campaign with a visit to relegation battlers Burnley — and doubt that they can manage a top-half finish but full-back Matt Targett begs to differ.
“I’m loving it,” he told nufc.co.uk when asked about the mood at the club. “I’m playing with a smile on my face and when that happens, I think you can see by the performances on the pitch that I play at a consistent level and I’m glad I have come in, helped the team and we’re kicking on to push up the table.
“It’s been a massive turnaround. That takes a lot of hard work and what the manager has instilled into us since the first day I joined. We’ve worked really hard to get where we are at the moment but there’s still a few games left to play and we don’t want to take our foot off the gas.
“Hopefully we can finish in the top half of the table because that would be an unbelievable achievement, especially in that second half of the season.”
Howe has some big decisions to make this summer, one of which is whether to hang on to Targett, who is on loan from Aston Villa. Targett’s main rival for the left-back slot is club stalwart Paul Dummett, whose contract with his hometown team comes to an end in June. Will Dummett be handed new terms or allowed to leave, given his time on the pitch has been severely limited? Howe is leaving the door open, for now.
“I really, really like Paul,” the coach said. “Behind the scenes he’s had a consistent period where he’s trained, which I think is what he needed because he’s had various injuries before I came to the football club.
“He is a leader within the group, although maybe not the most vocal, but certainly in terms of being a role model for everyone given his history here, how long he’s been here and his journey through.
“He has a huge amount of respect internally from the players for how he conducts himself. But he’s a very good player on top of that as well. Certainly, he’s someone we want to keep at the club.”
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