The 'top-class' coach impressing Newcastle United's Eddie Howe
It was football, football, football for Eddie Howe when he first arrived at Newcastle United.
The club’s head coach, with his family at the other end of the country, immersed himself in the job following his appointment just over a year ago.
Living alone in a hotel, there weren’t any other distractions for Howe, who took just when the club was 19th in the Premier League. Today, the outlook for the third-placed club is very different following a remarkable 11 months on the field.
Howe was joined by his family earlier this year. It’s still football, football, football, only with some junior football thrown in too.
The morning after a Saturday game, Howe can normally be found on the touchline watching his sons play football, and some weekday evenings are taken up with training sessions.
There’s no escaping the game – and that suits Howe, a football obsessive.
Asked what difference having his family in the North East has made to him, Howe said: "It's changed my evenings, for sure, where I'd be otherwise watching another game!
“There's been a lot of travelling to different football arenas with my two sons. My eldest two sons are both part of teams, and it's been great to get around the local area to meet different people – and to have a greater understanding of the youth football here.”
Howe has been struck by the passion he’s seen for the club while out and about supporting his sons.
“It just hits me how passionate all the kids, boys and girls, are for Newcastle,” said Howe.
"Before my son played, there's a girls team, I'm not exactly sure what age they are, and all of them have got Newcastle kits on, and the passion just hits you straight away, so that's been great to see.
“That's what I've been spending most of my evenings doing.
"It's a new element in how I spend my time up here and it's still related to football – I can't escape the game.”
Howe, of course, stands out as he stands behind the “respect line” in place at junior games, though he’s had no issues with the parents and children he’s met while supporting his sons.
"They've been very good, actually,” said Howe. “Everyone's been very friendly, very welcoming. They respect that I'm there to support my sons, but they've still had the urge to talk about Newcastle, and I fully respect that and understand that.
“It's been healthy for me to get out and about to share those Newcastle stories of how proud everyone is of the team at the moment.”
A certain pressure comes with coaching the sons of United’s head coach.
However, this shouldn’t faze Paul Gough, once part of Manchester United’s famous “Class of ‘92” youth team alongside Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville.
"I've been so impressed with him,” said Howe. “I want to give him a special mention, Paul Gough, brilliant coach.
“He was part of the class of 92, actually, at Manchester United, so he's got a football background, and I've really enjoyed watching him coach my sons. He's top class.”
Howe’s sons, of course, get extra coaching from their dad outside school hours in the back garden and on local pitches, and they’ve had some extra sessions in the early part of the World Cup break.
Asked if his sons had been looking forward to more sessions, the 45-year-old said: “Probably not! I think they like it when they’re away from me, to be honest.
“I do take my coaching bug out on them, so, yes, they’ll be (extra coaching). As long as it’s light enough by the time they return from school, I’ll be out there with them.”
Howe’s got out and about more generally since he was joined by his family in the city, though he rarely ventures into the city centre for anything other than games at St James’s Park.
"I've got out slightly more, not fully, and certainly not the city,” said Howe. “The city's been a place where I've not been an awful lot in terms of the heart of the city.
"Certainly, the surrounding areas, with my dog up with me now, will take more prominence in my life with long walks when I'm able to have the time to go and see the beaches and see more of north and south of the coast.”
Howe’s keen to discover the region when times allows.
"It's so important,” said Howe, who signed a new long-term contract earlier this year after keeping the club in the Premier League. “I don't think this job is just about managing the team and the players, it's about trying to fully understand the area – and fully understand the supporters and what they want to see and the dynamics of the football club.
“If you can educate yourself more in those things, you'll be a better manager for it.”
Newcastle, of course, has always been famed for its nightlife, and Howe wouldn’t need to a pay for a drink all night, but don’t expect to see Howe in a nightclub any time soon.
"Probably not at this stage in my life, no,” joked Howe. “I'm not sure that's a wise call to make!"
Howe, of course, is more comfortable on a training field, whether it be watching and instructing his Newcastle players – or supporting his sons.