Newcastle United have made progress under Eddie Howe, but the club, after more than a decade of under-investment under former owner Mike Ashley, is still years behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, who won 5-0 yesterday.
The loss had followed a 1-0 defeat to second-placed Liverpool the previous weekend.
“There is a huge gap between us and Liverpool and Manchester City, but that would be the same for most clubs in the Premier League, said Howe in his post-match press conference.
“We have to try and close that gap through the seasons. That requires evolution, not revolution. You have to be very careful you don't change too much, too quickly.
“We are looking to improve in every transfer window. But it has to be small, gradual steps, there is no magic wand or quick fix. It’s hard work, and smart moves, in trying to improve the team.”
Work started in January to improve the team. Amanda Staveley and the club’s new owners spent more than £80million on five players in an attempt to stave off the threat of relegation, and many, many more millions will need to be spent – and players moved out – if the gap is to be closed over the coming season.
Howe, understandably, is trying to manage expectations ahead of the summer transfer window – and next season. He and his players face many challenges, but the club’s owners are clear that they want to see the club challenge for European football – and trophies – as quickly as possible.
Howe, appointed last November after the club’s disastrous start to the season under Steve Bruce, under is looking for “progression”.
"If we can be smart with what we do in the summer, and keep the spirit we have in the squad, the future is very bright for the club,” said Howe.
“The aim when we came in was to stay in the Premier League at all costs.
"I don't think we're looking at that (challenging for the title) at this stage. We're looking for progression. We'll have to grow into that (expectation). Improvement is the key word."
There’s been a big improvement over the past few months, but an even bigger improvement is needed next season.