Newcastle's Champions League return only the start for ambitious Howe
Eddie Howe has targeted a period of sustained success for revitalised Newcastle after the ambitious boss ended his club's 20-year absence from the Champions League.
Fuelled by Howe's astute management and the financial muscle of their Saudi-backed owners, Newcastle have enjoyed a remarkable rise over the last 18 months.
A 0-0 draw against Leicester on Monday sparked raucous celebrations at St James' Park as Howe's third placed side confirmed their qualification for next season's Champions League.
Once regarded as the laughing stock of the Premier League, Newcastle are emerging as a genuine force for the first time since Kevin Keegan's 'entertainers' came close to winning the title in the 1990s.
It is an astonishing transformation for a team who were mired in the relegation zone when Howe was hired just weeks after the £305 million ($376 million) takeover from unpopular former owner Mike Ashley in October 2021.
Saudi's Public Investment Fund holds an 80 percent stake in Newcastle, with their presence in the Premier League still a bone of contention for groups who have complained about the country's human rights record.
But as the public face of Newcastle's renaissance, the articulate and engaging Howe has helped the club navigate that PR problem.
The 45-year-old has guided Newcastle into the Champions League in his first full season in charge, while also taking them to their first domestic final since 1999.
However, returning to Europe's elite club competition and losing to Manchester United in the League Cup final is not nearly enough to satisfy Howe.
The Newcastle boss has his sights set on winning the club's first major trophy since the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
"All I can think of is that next challenge coming and then being prepared for it because you can't sit back and say: 'Right, I'm going to take a month off and go and relax on a beach'," Howe said.
"It's the opposite, it's: 'Okay, how can we best succeed in that next phase?' So it is very much you're always on a cycle of trying to improve.
"I want success massively for this club. We want to bring silverware here if we can in the future."
- Bold ambition -
Newcastle's last major domestic prize came in 1955 when they lifted the FA Cup.
For such a football-obsessed city to go decades without a trophy has been cruel punishment for the long-suffering Toon Army, whose vociferous support forms a significant part of Newcastle's identity as a sleeping giant.
Newcastle have undoubtedly awoken from their slumber but to move to the next level, Howe will have to splash the cash again.
The 45-year-old has already been given more than £250 million to spend on new signings since he was appointed to clean up the mess left by his sacked predecessor Steve Bruce.
Howe is well aware more reinforcements are needed to retain their top four place next season, while navigating the demands of the Champions League.
"We have rotated to a degree, but maybe not in the numbers that we might need to next year," Howe said.
"If you're going to do that, then the squad needs to be strong enough, so if you put out two XIs, they're of equal strength.
"Whatever we do in the transfer market, we're going to have to be very smart. We're not going to have a bottomless pit.
"In the three transfer windows I've had, we've been excellent and we have to continue that."
In the immediate aftermath of the Saudi takeover, Newcastle director Amanda Staveley boldly claimed the club could be "a Man City or Man Utd" within five years.
Transformed from punching bags to Premier League heavyweights, it would be no surprise if Newcastle slug it out with Pep Guardiola's champions in the title race much sooner than that.