Eddie Howe has proved his Newcastle doubters wrong and has all the credentials to fire the red-hot Magpies into the Champions League, believes Stuart Pearce.
The former Newcastle and England star, 60, has watched Howe's side move up to third place in the Premier League table after a 4-1 win at Southampton on Sunday.
Howe's side have only lost one game all season and conceded just 11 goals, the joint-best defensive record in the league along with Arsenal.
And Pearce, who played 37 games for the Magpies between 1997 and 1999, reckons Howe has transformed Newcastle from relegation candidates to genuine European contenders.
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He said: “I think they have got every chance, especially considering the lack of consistency in the big six in the country.
“Apart from Arsenal and Manchester City, I think it is fair game.
“I think one or two people doubted Eddie How a couple of years ago.
“He has come back into Newcastle, and all he has done is enhance his reputation.
"I think people are too easy to cast managers off and write them off too soon, and maybe we saw that in the summer with Gareth Southgate.
“But Eddie is a really good coach, no doubt about that, and he has got Newcastle going in the right direction."
Howe's Bournemouth side were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2019/20 campaign after five seasons in the top-flight, with manager and club parting company by mutual consent that summer.
Newcastle were 19th in the table when the English manager took over, five points from safety after 11 games.
But after helping his side to safety last season, he signed a new long-term contract just nine months after being appointed.
And Pearce, who racked up 78 England caps and helped fire the Three Lions to the World Cup semi-finals at Italia 90, believes that Newcastle could get even better if they spend wisely during the January transfer window.
Pearce, speaking as an ambassador of ‘Pitching In’ at the launch of the grassroots investment programme’s flagship sponsorship of Camden Town Women, added: “I thought Champions League football was a pipe dream in the summer.
"Trippier and Burn were inspired signings that have got their heart in Newcastle, certainly with Dan Burn coming from that area.
“There is no doubt in my mind that they will sustain what they have done.
“They might even go into the transfer market in January because of the financial situation at the club and get even stronger."
The Premier League season will be paused after this weekend's round of fixtures, with Newcastle facing Chelsea in their last game before the Qatar World Cup.
The Magpies have not lost a game since their 2-1 defeat against Liverpool in August, and Pearce believes that the break in the season has come at the worst possible time.
He added: “The way they have started has been brilliant, there is the break in the season, I don’t think anyone at Newcastle would want a break at this moment in time.
“I think they’d rather keep going and keep the run of form going.
“They have got a brilliant game at the weekend against Chelsea.
“I think Eddie would rather keep rolling with it but if they get another win at the weekend Eddie will enjoy his month off."
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