The revealing Newcastle United recalls under Eddie Howe
The narrative in some quarters so far this season is that Newcastle United have bought success.
The club, which is third in the Premier League after 15 games, has spent more than £200million in the last two transfer windows. And that investment has helped, massively.
But the spending figures only tell half the story. And, in any case, much of the spend since Newcastle were bought just over a year ago was needed to address years of underspending under former owner Mike Ashley.
The rest of the story is about coaching, and the team has improved collectively and individually under Eddie Howe’s watch. The improvement has been striking.
Players who couldn’t get a game at times under Steve Bruce, like Fabian Schar and Sean Longstaff, are playing week in, week out – and playing well. The team has an identity, a settled way of playing – and everyone knows their jobs
So coaching, and the behind-the-scenes culture, is just as important as the cash spend by the club’s owners, who must work within the Premier League Profit and Sustainability rules.
Howe has been naming five, six or even seven players that were at United before the takeover on his recent teamsheets, but United’s head coach insists that he isn't looking for any “validation” from the club’s critics.
Asked if some of his recent teams had silenced those who had claimed the club had bought success, Howe said: “We’re not looking for any validation, we’re just doing the job to the best of our ability.
"I love coaching players and trying to improve them. From day one here, I sensed a really open group who wanted that work. I don’t feel we’ve bought the success we’re currently having.
"It has come from hard work – and brilliant performances from the players. We’re just doing the best we can, day to day.”
Howe gave those players not on international duty a couple of weeks off after last weekend’s 1-0 win over Chelsea, while the 44-year-old had a few days off with his family.
However, preparations will soon start for the domestic football calendar’s Christmas restart.
Hard work has got the club up to the Champions League places – and only more hard work will keep them there.