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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Hotel analysis and brutal bleep tests – inside Eddie Howe’s Newcastle revolution

Asked to sum up his start as Newcastle United manager in one word, Eddie Howe decides on “challenging” – and that does not simply apply to the task of resuscitating a team bottom of the Premier League and without a win in five months.

And while his reign is still in its infancy, Telegraph Sport looks at how the new manager’s Tyneside revolution has shaped up so far – despite some setbacks.

Video chats and remote substitutions

Howe’s positive test for Covid-19 a week ago not only robbed him of the chance to introduce himself to the St James’ Park crowd for the game against Brentford – a blow for a manager who has made weaponising Newcastle’s fanbase one of his key priorities in the battle against relegation – but put a severe dent in his plans to recalibrate his side through intensive work on the training field.

Yet Howe is nothing if not resourceful, and a contingency plan was in place. The manager may have been confined to a hotel room, but his presence was keenly felt: he was in constant dialogue with first team coach Stephen Purches during the 3-3 draw with Brentford and was able to relay tactical messages in real time, as well as order substitutions. 

Subsequently, he has delivered video messages to every player and carried out hours of video analysis. He has watched countless Arsenal games back, as well as Newcastle ones. He has watched every single training session live, via a video stream and often twice for further analysis. 

Before his isolation, Howe was spending upwards of 12 to 13 hours a day at the training ground. His working hours have not reduced this week, but all he can rely on is a screen and remote instructions.

Communication and delegation

Howe has made communication with his players one of his core principles since arriving at Newcastle – indeed, he spent so much of his first week barking instructions on the training field, and in quieter conversations with his players, that he briefly lost his voice.

He may not be present in person, but there have been multiple conversations with players over the phone, offering feedback on what he liked and did not like against Brentford. 

Ultimately, however, he has had to delegate much of the communication to his staff, who have spent most of the week focusing on team shape and defensive structure.

Howe has trusted lieutenants such as Jason Tindall in place for most of this work, but – prior to his positive test – the new manager had also made every effort to speak one-on-one with other staff members, getting to know them and to tap into their knowledge. Figures at the club have been impressed, with one describing Howe as “bright, attentive and knowledgeable”.

He has spoken to people about every area of the club. He has asked questions about the city and the region. He has listened intently to everything, with a habit of staying silent, not interrupting when someone else talks, letting them fill the silence if there is one. 

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