Eddie Howe will not put a target on Newcastle’s back as they attempt to continue their progress.
In the space of seven days this month, the club has gone out of the Champions League and the Carabao Cup to leave themselves fighting on just two fronts as the turn of the year approaches.
That has led to suggestions from outside the city that the Magpies are in serious danger of under-achieving this season and, in some quarters, that head coach Howe’s job could be under threat.
Howe said: “My discussions with everyone connected with the football club here and the running of the football club, there’s never been that pressure of this season or next season in terms of positions in the league and expectations to win competitions. That’s all come from us internally.
“Of course, there’s an ambition, but there’s a difference, I think, between an ambition and a target that’s on your back.
“Everyone here wants to see growth. They want to see growth in the team, they want to see improvement and of course then longer term, those thoughts, I’m sure, will change to tangible targets and to set things that we have to do.
“But at this moment in time, we started from such a low base that we’re just trying to build and we’ve built really quickly.
“For my mind, we want to increase that speed, everything has to come tomorrow, but there needs to be a realisation of where we’re at also.”
Howe has been in post on Tyneside since November 2021 having been handed the reins by the club’s Saudi-backed owners just weeks after they completed their takeover.
He first steered Newcastle to top-flight safety and then last season into the top four, in the process cementing his standing with the new regime and endearing himself to supporters who crave success.
In doing so, he freely acknowledged that they had accomplished one of their targets significantly earlier than planned and, while the last thing he wants to do is limit expectation, is aware of the need for perspective.
Howe added ahead of Saturday’s trip to Luton: “I believe that we can achieve great things. I believe in the squad, I believe in the characters within the squad, so I’ve got a delicate balance.
Eddie Howe on Tom Lockyer:
"Without a doubt, watching the game back as we did, that was a really difficult moment. It really puts football into perspective, Tom’s health is paramount. We want to send our best wishes to Tom and his family from everyone here." pic.twitter.com/9tTimdoA1C
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) December 22, 2023
“But then externally, I don’t want to put pressure on the players.
“I want them to play in a really good environment, I want them to be able to express themselves and then internally at the club, we then need a realisation that we’re still building, we’re still very early in the journey.”
Howe will make late decisions on Sven Botman, Fabian Schar, Emil Krafth, Anthony Gordon and Alexander Isak ahead of a game which will be played against the backdrop of an outpouring of emotion for Hatters skipper Tom Lockyer, who is recovering after suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch at Bournemouth last weekend.
Howe said: “Tom himself is the most important thing, his family. It really puts football into perspective.
“His health is paramount. Of course it’s the second time it’s happened and we want to send him our best wishes from everyone connected with Newcastle.”