Newcastle United midfielder reveals why he signed new contract amid Leeds United and Celtic interest
Newcastle United’s Joe White ticks a lot of boxes for scouts – and a number of clubs were circling.
Left-footed White, a technically-gifted and powerful midfielder, had been talked up by Steve Bruce – yet he faced an uncertain future on Tyneside.
At the time, Newcastle were still owned by Mike Ashley – and there was a big question mark over his future. Then came a takeover – the club was finally bought by a consortium led by Amanda Staveley last October in a £305million deal – and the subsequent appointment of Eddie Howe.
And Howe, like Steve before him, recognised White’s talent and potential.
Speaking last December, United’s head coach said: “With Joe White, I've been very impressed. I saw him playing for the development squad recently, and he performed really well. He's a talented player.”
White went on loan to League Two club Hartlepool United, and the 19-year-old has been regularly training with the first-team in recent weeks after recovering from an injury suffered in pre-season.
And White signed a new three-year deal at Newcastle early this year after talking with Howe.
"Eddie’s the best, really,” said the Carlisle-born player, who played in the senior friendlies against Rotherham United and Burton Albion last year. "He’s the reason I signed the contract in January.
"He spoke to me a lot, and he’s a massive help to everybody. Especially the guys who have been with him the longest, like Matt Ritchie with Bournemouth. They sing his praises, but I have nothing but kind words to say about him."
Howe, appointed last November with the team winless and 19th in the Premier League, demands that his players train as they play, and the intensity of first-team training was an eye-opener for White. Players must be ready physically – and “switched on” mentally – for every session.
"It is totally different to anything you can imagine compared to Under-21s – or even going on loan with first-teams at lower leagues,” said White. "It's crazy, really, not just physically, but mentally as well.
"You have to be totally switched on. You need to be switched on if you go up there."
White – who played 90 minutes for United’s Under-21s in last week’s 2-0 Papa John’s Trophy defeat to Barnsley at Oakwell last week – had hoped to get away on another loan in the summer.
However, the injury he suffered in pre-season saw him miss out on a move.
"I think after last season, playing first-team football at Hartlepool, that's all I want to do now,” said White, who joined Newcastle from boyhood club Carlisle United in 2016.
"Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get on loan this season, so these (Papa John’s Trophy) games are important for me to see where I am at, and hopefully get out on loan in January.
"The initial aim’s to get into Eddie Howe's first-team squad, and I’ve got three months to improve as much as possible – and play as well as I can.
"I need to be the best player on the pitch for the Under-21s in each game. I think I need to stand out in these games, which will help in January."
White made 16 appearances for Hartlepool, who had been promoted from the National League the previous season. Reflecting on his loan at the club, White said: “It was good, started off very well, played 16 games, I think. Made my debut in the FA Cup against Palace.
“The season kind of faded away for the club as soon as we got safe, because they had promotion from the National League the season before that. Everyone was tiring, there were changes in the team every week.
“It was a bit frustrating, for me, because I wanted to keep on playing and going how I started.
“Just being in first-team environment and training every day, playing in front of fans, playing with so much more pressure than you do for the 21s. It just gave me the feeling that I want more of it. I want to play as many first-team games as I can.”
White – who suffered a knee injury in Spain in July with United’s Under-21s – is now pushing to impress Howe each day in first-team training as he recovers his fitness.
"I've been up there every day since I came back from injury,” said White. "I’m still not at full fitness.
"That was my first full game (against Barnsley), but for the last two weeks I have been up (with the first-team squad) there most days. That further enhances my first-team chances.”
On his injury, White added: "It happened in Spain in pre-season. I picked up a niggle, and didn't manage to get to Austria (with Howe’s squad) because of that.
"I tore my lateral meniscus. I did it before the Elche game, but played through it. I didn't think it was major, so I had a scan when I came back, and the scan came back and showed a tear.
"It was disappointing to start the season, and that stopped the loans going through, which obviously I wanted to do."
Given White’s promise, there won’t a shortage of clubs keen to take him on loan in January.