Eddie Howe’s work at Newcastle this season is as impressive as his last two

St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - March 30, 2024 Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe
Newcastle recorded an impressive 4-0 victory over Tottenham on Saturday - Reuters/Scott Heppell

Anyone with any real insight about what has happened at Newcastle United this season will have told you that Eddie Howe has not been in any danger of losing his job as manager.

Not when Newcastle were knocked out of the Champions League – and out of Europe altogether – in December. Not when they lost to Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup a week later. Not even when they were dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester City and slipped down to 10th in the table last month.

The only people who have called for Newcastle’s manager to be sacked are a few attention-seeking talking heads and a few ranty voices on social media. It has been outside noise, unhelpful, but easy enough to ignore for the club’s owners, who were determined to support Howe through his first tough spell on Tyneside. The match-going fans have never shown any inclination that they were losing patience, because everyone understood the problems he faced in his third season in charge.

Howe has always been safe at St James’ Park, but that does not mean he has not been under pressure. That comes with the territory. There have been some bad performances and defeats. The team’s defensive record since December was terrible.

But after the comprehensive victory over Tottenham Hotspur this weekend – and second successive clean sheet – anyone who argued Howe needed to be replaced looks even more foolish.

Alexander Isak of Newcastle United celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur at St. James Park on April 13, 2024 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Newcastle have now won three of their last four games - Getty Images/Joe Prior

Indeed, there is now a strong argument to make that the job he has done this term, with his squad decimated by injuries since the autumn, is just as good as the one he did saving Newcastle from relegation in his first year and qualifying for the Champions League in the second.

No top-flight manager has lost more players, for a greater length of time, this season than Howe. There were 11 missing through various physical ailments again against Tottenham.

When you combine that with the fact that Newcastle’s star summer signing, Italy international Sandro Tonali, brought in to raise the quality of their midfield, was banned for 10 months in October for breaking gambling rules, Howe has not been able to pick his strongest side for months.

Against Tottenham, as it was against Fulham the previous weekend, Newcastle’s bench was filled with two goalkeepers, three defenders and some kids from the youth team who are not really ready for the senior action. They still won.

Howe, though, has never complained or looked for an excuse. He has taken the criticism this season with good grace and steely determination to turn things around. He responded to it perfectly.

It would have been easy for Howe and his staff to listen to the noise and look inwards, protecting themselves by blaming others. They have always refused to do so. It would equally have been understandable if the players had lost confidence and, with it, their togetherness and competitive edge.

That also has not happened because Howe was the ideal man to guide them through the rough patch and keep their season going.

St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - April 13, 2024 Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe applauds fans after the match
Eddie Howe's position at St James Park is secure - Reuters/Lee Smith

Since the FA Cup defeat at Manchester City, which ended the club’s trophy hopes for yet another year, Newcastle have taken 10 points from a possible 12 and have moved up into sixth in the table. On paper, their remaining six games all look winnable. Having climbed up from 10th, they now look like the favourites to secure a place in the Europa League next term.

That would be a stunning finish to a season full of setbacks and problems. It has been difficult; the first real bumps in the road, which included the departure of sporting director Dan Ashworth, since the takeover by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in October 2021. We did not know how Howe would cope with adversity, but he has passed this test with aplomb.

Newcastle have beaten Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea at St James’ Park this season. They were a terrible penalty decision away from knocking Paris St-Germain out of the Champions League and 90 seconds away from reaching the semi-finals of the League Cup too.

To come through a season like this and to still be in a position to secure European football next season is a remarkable feat. Howe will not be on the shortlist for manager of the year but perhaps he should be.