Eddie Howe is scared of rollercoasters but he’s enjoying the ride at Newcastle… he’s got fans dreaming of Champions League football, and his family are loving life in Alan Shearer’s old house!
- Eddie Howe went to Disneyland Paris during the Premier League break
- He found out that he is scared of rollercoasters during his visit to the theme park
- Yet the Magpies boss is loving the ride he is currently on with Newcastle
- Newcastle are third, and have fans dreaming of Champions League football
- Howe’s family are also loving Tyneside and living in Alan Shearer’s old house
When Eddie Howe turned on the television for the first time in the house he now rents with his wife and three sons in a leafy suburb of Newcastle, he noticed a Netflix account belonging to the former occupant.
‘It was there on the screen, “Al’s” Netflix,’ he recalls. ‘I just thought, “Oh, the last owner was called ‘Al’.” It was only then someone told me it was Alan Shearer! I did not dare go back in and check what he had been watching!’
Howe and the club’s record goalscorer have since laughed about their inadvertent piece of transfer business. I put it to him that, if you are keen to ingratiate yourself with the Geordie public, moving into Shearer’s place isn’t a bad tactic. ‘I honestly did not know until I moved in!’ he protests. ‘But I’m hoping a bit of his magic rubs off on me.’
Eddie Howe is currently renting the former home of Newcastle’s record scorer Alan Shearer
Howe’s family love Shearer’s old home and the Newcastle boss is enjoying his time on Tyneside
Not that Howe is in need of stardust. When it comes to popularity on Tyneside this Christmas, even namesake Eddie the Elf is beaten into second by the Newcastle boss. His team have won their last five in the Premier League, elevating them into third. They are also through to the last eight of the Carabao Cup. Their season to date has surpassed all expectation, even if there was a feeling of something special being built last term during their escape from relegation.
Howe is talking to us from the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh where, in the capital city of their Saudi Arabian owners, he and his players spent a week training this month.
‘Is this the hot seat?’ he says, pulling up in a chair amid temperatures of 27C. They’re all hot seats in Saudi, Eddie. But the head coach is a picture of cool and contentment. Rather, the most uneasy seat he has taken in recent weeks was during a short break at Disneyland Paris.
’I went on one really bad ride. I’m not one for rollercoasters at all. I was told, “Oh yeah, it’s a family ride”. So I went on with the three boys. It was one of the worst couple of minutes of my life!
Newcastle are flying at the moment, and currently sit third in the Premier League table
Howe has also guided the Magpies into the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup
‘There’s a lesson – do your research and find out what you’re going on. I was chucked around, all over this turtle thing. I came off and felt sick for the rest of the day. So it’s very similar to this job – you just have to go with the ride and cling on!’
When Howe sat down with us in the Austrian mountains on the eve of this campaign, he spoke of his family’s summer road trip through California. He confessed to being distracted by his phone, even jumping off a waterslide to take one call. Was he able to switch off this time?
‘I was distracted in a different way. The summer was “transfers, transfers, transfers”. This was different things – the World Cup, players, staff… but Disneyland was an amazing experience, we really enjoyed it. When we got back, I was quickly on the trip here. But I’ve had a mental refresh, which is important. When you look at the schedule, it’s intense.’
The only downtime between now and New Year will be Christmas morning itself, before travelling to Leicester for their Boxing Day fixture. Last year, Howe was in the Hilton Hotel on the banks of the Tyne with his family. He smiles at the memory.
‘It was actually really nice, we even had a tree!’ he says. ‘We tried to make it special for the boys and they loved it. But this year, in our house, will be even more special. I’m so proud of how Vicki and the boys have adapted to life here and have tried to buy into everything.’
Howe’s family relocated from the South Coast at the start of the school year and his sons are now enrolled with a junior football team. He watches them play at a weekend and, on one occasion, wore what he thought was a disguise, so as not to cause a fuss. To the football-obsessed boys and girls of Tyneside, however, it was just Eddie Howe in a hat and oversized coat.
Howe has managed to get the best out of his players, including winger Miguel Almiron
During a fan engagement event in Riyadh, he joked that the team’s form has at least afforded his children an easy start to a new school. ‘They come out at home time very happy, so I must be making their lives easier. Long may that continue!’ he said.
The 45-year-old is at ease talking about life as a dad and the security and comfort he takes from his family’s presence. Unprompted, he reaches for his phone.
‘My wife has just sent me a letter to Santa from my eight-year-old. I’ll read you a bit. Our fans will be pleased to hear some of this; a Fitbit, Air Pods, Newcastle away kit – green and white – PSG home kit, three walkie talkies – he’s got two brothers – Newcastle home shorts and socks, Newcastle away – blue and yellow – Match Attax, footballs, chocolate, Where’s Wally book.’
Howe is laughing and, before talk turns to football, it is a charming insight into the man behind the manager. But first, what is on his Christmas list?
‘I’ll give you a very cliched answer but, as long as I get heart and effort from the players, it is all I ever ask for. Everything else good comes off the back of that. When I watch the team, I have seen commitment and desire. As long as I see that, I’m happy.’
And so to football. The club’s British-based owners – Amanda Staveley, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Jamie Reuben – are buzzing around the hotel lobby and we joke that Howe should be putting the squeeze on them for January transfer funds, especially as expectation has reached unprecedented levels. It is an interesting debate, but has the team done too well, too soon? Will it now be a failure if they miss out on a Champions League finish?
‘I understand the question and I understand that people look at the team differently,’ says Howe. ‘You guys then report on the team differently and expectations will have risen.
Pep Guardiola feels Newcastle have an advantage with no European football, but Howe is remaining cautious ahead of the Premier League resuming
‘What we can do is maximise what we have at our disposal and get the best out of every player, try to get consistent results and see where we end up. I have not put any pressure on the team about where we will finish. That has never been my style and never will be, I think it just brings unnecessary pressure. But certainly, we are in a good position now, as it is such a good league.’
Howe will not say it himself, but there is a definite feeling of this being a unique opportunity for Newcastle to accelerate their journey and gatecrash the top four. As Pep Guardiola said, Howe and his players have a competitive advantage over their rivals because of no European football. The Manchester City boss has called them ‘contenders’.
But Howe’s seat remains the equivalent of a fence. ’It’s very difficult because this season is unlike any other, it almost starts again now,’ he says. ‘The form we previously had, there is no guarantee that will continue. We have to earn the right.
‘The biggest danger is to think back to how well we’ve done and relax and stay in that mood. We have to come back determined to do it all again. Results are always difficult to guarantee, but effort and performance you should be able to see. That is one of the key hallmarks of the team. There is an obvious togetherness on the pitch. But they’re not givens. They don’t happen by simply turning up.’
As long as Shearer doesn’t turn up on the doorstep asking for the television back, it should be a very happy Christmas for Howe and Newcastle.
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