Eddie Howe gave up family time to save Newcastle from disaster

‘My boy did a Cruyff turn in front of the Gallowgate, the pressure is on him now!’: Newcastle boss Eddie Howe on Premier League survival, Zoom calls as a long-distance dad… and meeting Ant and Dec

  • Eddie Howe has transformed Newcastle’s fortunes since becoming manager
  • Newcastle have risen from 19th to 12th and are assured of Premier League survival
  • Howe has opened up on living away from his children and his time at Newcastle
  • The 44-year-old says he relishes the impact a positive result has on the city 

Eddie Howe has spent the best part of five years teaching his eldest son, Harry, the Cruyff turn. Finally, on Monday night, he saw him pull off the trick in surrounds other than the family back garden.

That it came in front of the Gallowgate End, during Newcastle United’s end-of-season lap of appreciation, was particularly pleasing for his dad, even if he did miss it first time around.

‘My wife videoed it and when I watched it back, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was like, “That’s a Cruyff turn!”,’ says Howe, a father of three boys aged 10, 7 and three.

Eddie Howe was joined by his family on the pitch at St James’ Park after the Arsenal victory

Howe described beating Arsenal as ‘special’ and was glad his family were there to see it

‘So yeah, I was analysing my boy on the video, seeing him drop a shoulder and beat a couple of the other kids! I have been coaching and coaching him to do a Cruyff turn. He does it in the garden but never in his matches. He plays slightly within himself. So, to see him do that Cruyff at St James’ in front of 50,000 is validation that he can do it. The pressure is on him now.’

The pressure was on Howe when he arrived on Tyneside in November. Six months on, the team he inherited are unrecognisable, rising from 19th to 12th. He has been shortlisted for Manager of the Year.

Here at the club’s training ground, the 44-year-old sits before us far more relaxed than at any point during that fight for survival. It helps when you have just beaten Arsenal 2-0 with a performance lauded as Newcastle’s best of recent years.

Given the ceremony around the game – a stunning display of flags, the lap of honour and Ant and Dec on the touchline afterwards – Howe told his wife, Vicki, it was one she and the boys could not miss.

Newcastle have been in superb form since Howe took over as manager in November

There was a party atmosphere inside St James’ on Monday, their last home game of the season

‘I knew it would be special, that feeling inside the stadium and the walk around at the end. I wanted them to experience that, to bring them closer to the club. The result, the performance, made it even better. If they had watched that on the TV, I would have been crying inside for them. The fact they were there, it was a brilliant moment.’

The Howes viewed several houses the following day, in between practising more Cruyff turns in one of the city’s parks.

‘A bit of green area with a goal and that’s where we are,’ says Howe. ‘I see a few fans and they are very respectful. They say, “I know you are with your family, but can I have a picture?”. They have been very good. I had a vision of what it was going to be like in Newcastle, and that has been upheld. Everyone is passionate about the football club.’

The plan remains for the family to relocate from Bournemouth. Willis, their six-month-old Boxer, will join them.

‘If you see me walking him, it’s like a comedy show. He’s a nightmare. Boxers are just incredible, they have so much energy, they’re mischievous. It’s not very relaxing. But I love that, love being a dad, and that’s really my switch-off time.’

Bruno Guimaraes has been a key part of the Magpies’ resurgence after joining in January

Howe’s arrival was welcomed by Newcastle fans but he missed his first match through Covid

Howe is torn between laughter and tears when describing his role as a long-distance dad in recent months.

‘Saying goodbye I’ve always found very, very difficult. I want to be in their lives every day and I want to shape their lives as best I can.

‘But I know it’s for a short period and I know, for me, I’m going on to something amazing, I’m managing Newcastle United. They love Newcastle, so they know why I’m leaving them, I think that helps.’

How long is it before you’re thinking about football after driving away?

‘If my wife reads this… by the time I leave the gates of the house! That’s shocking,’ says Howe, who will unwind next week with an A-ha concert in Bournemouth, his ‘secret passion’.

‘I make a point of seeing the boys visually every day, with Zoom calls in the evening. I have to say, I’m listening intently to what they say. From their side, it’s one-word answers and they run off. I get another one of the boys come on, he gives a one word-answer and then runs off. It’s like a conveyor belt, me trying to keep their attention.

TV stars and famous Newcastle fans Ant and Dec were in the stands for the Arsenal clash

‘But I miss them, greatly. We have made it work and we knew it was only for a short period. There was a very collective feel that we were making the jump together.’

There was, however, a false start for Howe, who tested positive for Covid-19 just 24 hours before his first match at home to Brentford.

‘I saw the doc walking across the training pitch,’ he recalls. ‘I moved, and then he moved. I was like, “Oh no, he’s coming for me!”. He said I’d had a positive test. I was like, “For f***’s sake!”. You can’t make it up. It was just a disaster, an absolute disaster.’

What would have been a disaster, given the ambition of Newcastle under Saudi-led owners, was relegation. Only last week was their safety mathematically assured when Leeds lost to Chelsea. Did Howe, in his Tyneside apartment, celebrate?

‘No. I just had a nice little internal, “Get in there”. My personality is introverted. I’m not an extrovert, I don’t seek attention. I’ve always been that way. I don’t need adulation in my life.’

But, in Newcastle, he cannot escape the acclaim. So, what has been the highlight of his first season? Meeting Ant and Dec?

‘That was a highlight, a big one! They were really nice, by the way. But my biggest highlight? I think the impact it has on people. When we get a positive result, seeing the impact on matchday and around the city. I love seeing the positive reaction football can bring.’

Cruyff turns in front of the Gallowgate End certainly bring a smile to Howe’s face.

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