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Eddie Howe has admitted keeping Newcastle in the Premier League would match anything he has achieved in his career to date.
The 44-year-old famously guided Bournemouth from League Two into the top flight to make his name as a manager, but took on a major challenge when he was appointed by the club’s new owners to replace Steve Bruce as the Magpies’ head coach in November with the club five points adrift of safety.
Victory over Crystal Palace on Tyneside on Wednesday evening would take Newcastle to 40 points, the traditional finishing line for those battling relegation, although many believe they are already safe with a 12-point advantage over the chasing pack.
Asked where that would rank as an achievement, Howe, who nevertheless still believes there is work to be done, said: “It would be right up there, right up there.
“I’ve been so focused week on week and the job’s not done yet. I can’t take myself there in terms of looking back and reflecting. It’s difficult in this moment to do that.
“I’m very much in the moment and focusing on the next game knowing that we’re still in the middle of the battle that we have ahead.
“You may be better asking me if – and hopefully when – we achieve the target.”
Barring the odd blip – principally a 5-1 drubbing at Tottenham on April 3 – the Magpies have not looked back since a win 1-0 at Leeds in January sent them off to a warm weather training camp in Saudi Arabia in positive mood.
Howe said: “It was difficult at the time to see it, but looking back now, you think that was a potential turning point for us.
“The Saudi trip was a brilliant thing for the group, and we came back in a much better place, united, ready to start the fight to stay in the division.”
Three points against beaten FA Cup semi-finalists Palace would see Newcastle secure a sixth successive home Premier League win for the first time since April 2004 under Sir Bobby Robson, with supporters having been reminded of those heady days by the atmosphere which greeted Bruno Guimaraes’ last-gasp winner against Leicester on Sunday.
Howe, who revealed the club is closely scrutinising every detail in areas such as nutrition, sleep and analysis as it plots a way forward, said: “To do that would be an incredible thing for us.
“To do anything related to the name Sir Bobby Robson and to try to achieve one of his milestones would be brilliant for us.
“Playing at home, as we’ve always said, is such a unique thing here. It’s such a privilege to play in the stadium and the atmosphere the supporters have created has been fantastic.”