Eddie Howe is hoping Newcastle’s united front can propel them all the way to the Champions League.
The Magpies eased themselves two points clear of Manchester United in third place in the Premier League table as a result of Thursday night’s 4-1 win at Everton as Erik ten Hag’s men, who have a game in hand, were pegged back to draw 2-2 at Tottenham.
They will hope to strengthen their position further with an eighth victory in nine attempts when basement boys Southampton head for St James’ Park on Sunday, a run which has put a smile on head coach Howe’s face.
Asked how much he is enjoying his job, the 45-year-old said: “Winning is everything. Of course, it’s what you are paid to do and it’s what you plan to do, and I’m so proud of everyone connected with the club this year and what we’ve given, players, staff, board, everyone.
“We feel really united at the moment. Things are going well. We’re not taking that for granted because we know how quickly it can change, but we’re enjoying the feeling we’re having and long may that continue.”
Much has been made of the money Howe has been able to invest to bolster the squad he inherited from predecessor Steve Bruce, with the club’s Saudi-backed owners having forked out in excess of £250million on the likes of Alexander Isak, Bruno Guimaraes, Sven Botman, Nick Pope and Kieran Trippier.
However, the degree to which existing players have developed – in particular Fabian Schar, Sean Longstaff, Joelinton, Miguel Almiron and Jacob Murphy – under his guidance has been remarkable.
Howe left defender Dan Burn, who had been unwell, Murphy and Isak out of his starting line-up at Goodison Park after Sunday’s 6-1 demolition of Tottenham, with one-time talisman Allan Saint-Maximin still injured, yet still saw his team power its way to a comprehensive victory.
It would be no surprise if he rotated once again – both Callum Wilson, who helped himself to a double at Everton, and Isak have found themselves sitting on the bench the game after scoring twice in recent weeks – although that may come as little consolation to the relegation-haunted Saints.
Howe said: “There is a real confidence about the group of players we have. Regardless of who we pick at the moment, it seems that confidence is there in the group. Confidence is such a key thing in any footballer and any team.
“The key thing for us is not to take that for granted and not to back off from what we’re doing to create that and what the players are doing to create that. There’s a lot of hard work going in and we need to not take our eye off the ball.”