United came into the new year having won just once in the league and when they were dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Cambridge United, followed up by an uninspiring draw with Watford, doom and gloom surrounded St James’s Park.
Despite new life being breathed back into St James’s Park following the club’s takeover and Eddie Howe’s appointment, it seemed inevitable that Newcastle would slip back into the Championship come the end of the season.
The threat of relegation was a real worry on Tyneside, but Howe has insisted that he never felt worried, despite the ‘difficult’ challenge he had on his hands:
“It’s difficult when you’re in it to be worried.” Howe said, reflecting on the beginning of 2022. “I don’t think worry was an emotion at that time.
“I knew it was going to be a very difficult challenge and we had obstacles in-front of us.
“The transfer window was a big thing that we had to navigate properly whilst also having some key games in January.
“It was very difficult, we were all aware how tough it was and that it could potentially go right until the end of the season. We’re still in that moment where we don’t know what’s going to happen.
“But we knew the transfer window was going to be key but I’ve said all along it was about trying to get the best out of the players we already had and build confidence and to try and get the players to take to the field thinking ‘we’re going to win’ - those were the things we were looking at.”
So what helped to spark this ‘mini-revolution’ we have seen at the club recently? Well, according to Howe, it was the victory at Elland Road and the subsequent trip to Saudi Arabia that helped the team kick-start their season.
“It was difficult at the time to see it but looking back now [at the Leeds game] and you do think that was a potential turning point for us.
“We had been away and the Saudi trip was a brilliant thing for the group and we came back in a much better place, united and ready to start the fight to stay in the division.
“To get that positive result, a clean sheet and the manner of performance was a massive, massive day and thankfully since then we have managed to keep the momentum.”
After returning from their squad-building trip to Saudi Arabia, Newcastle added the signings of Bruno Guimaraes, Matt Targett and Dan Burn to their ranks and have reaped the rewards of these additions.
Premier League safety is within their reach and Howe wants to ensure their standards do not drop if and when they mathematically secure their top-flight status:
“My mindset is that I want to win everything. Pre-season friendlies, training games, I want the players to win to their maximum level.
“We will try and maintain our standards right to the end.”