Inside Howe’s mindset – introverted, obsessive and changing Newcastle mood
Eddie Howe has led Newcastle United to safety but in a revealing interview the top boss has detailed the personality traits than have helped the Toon, and given an insight into the man behind the cool, analytical dug-out persona… including meeting Ant and Dec and loving Norwegian band A-ha
Eddie Howe met TV golden duo, and massive Newcastle fans, Ant and Dec this week.
“That was a highlight, a big highlight. They were really nice by the way,” says Howe. But the photo opportunity on the pitch after the brilliant, raucous win against Arsenal, is Howe’s only concession to the showbiz, glitzy part of football. Giving an insight into the man behind the manager who helped rescue Newcastle from winless in December, to flying high and optimistic in May, Howe reveals he’s actually shy, with an “obsessive” personality.
“My personality is introverted. I’m not an extrovert, I don’t seek attention,” he said. “I’ve always been that way. I keep a low profile – I don’t need adulation in my life. The joy for me comes from coaching and trying to win matches.”
He’s a lover of the music of mid-80s legends A-ha, has a naughty boxer dog puppy called Willis who is comically badly behaved on walks, and then there are his “foundations” – his wife and three kids aged between three and 10. He’s had seven months away from the family home, nightly Zoom calls, and this week’s visit and park kick-abouts came after a four week absence. They are still looking for a permanent home in Newcastle.
They will all take two weeks off together later this month to drive down the west coast of America on holiday, fielding calls about transfers while fitting in theme parks. Then it will be back to work again, moving his family to Tyneside and planning for a season of more rebuilding – although not with a budget that suggests Newcastle are the richest club in the world. Currently, they are not, and it’s a slow burner.
Howe reflects on the stirring scenes at St James’ Park on Monday night when his side demolished fifth placed Arsenal, and an emotional post match kick about between the kids of United players and Howe’s sons watched by their families. He joked: “I have been coaching and coaching my boy to do a Cruyff turn. He does it in the garden but never in his matches. He plays slightly within himself. But he did it at St James’ in front of 50,000 The pressure is on him now. My wife videoed it. I watched the video back and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“She has been a tower of strength for me. You need that stability in your life, because this job is so unpredictable. The emotions are so extreme, from high to low. She is my foundation.”
That night, with Tyneside rocking and happy, the mood so often determined by the fortunes of their football club, Howe explained what was even better than Ant and Dec’s company. “The biggest highlight is the impact it all has on people. When we get a positive result, seeing the impact on matchday and around the city. That’s special.”
Rewinding to November, Howe is reminded it could have been Villarreal boss Unai Emery sitting in his chair at the training ground. He had studied hard and updated all his coaching sessions ready for a club to call. His wife used to say: “What are you doing…” but Howe says it kept him keyed into the job and was educational.
When he was out of work, he avoided games and results by taking his kids for golf lessons at 4pm on a Saturday. He was “devastated” when he thought Emery was close to being announced, but the Spaniard pulled out and Howe says he’d have taken the job under Mike Ashley’s ownership too. “Events changed and that is how life works. Suddenly it swung round my way and I was delighted by that. I felt it was the place for me.”
He missed his first game in charge against Brentford after contracting Covid, confined to a hotel room. “I was like, for f**k’s sake! You can’t make it up. I’m just thinking I’m going to miss the game… all the people I’m going to have to tell, then the supporters. It was just a disaster, an absolute disaster, for the league position we were in. That was a bad day.” So was losing at home to Cambridge United in the FA Cup.
The upturn came in mid January, with new signings arriving, and a run of ten wins in 14 games. How did Eddie celebrate when Newcastle were finally safe from relegation? “I just had a nice little internal ‘Get in there’!”
Last month when I asked Howe what kind of music summed up his Newcastle team – because Jurgen Klopp saying he produced “heavily metal football” said he needed time to think. But now, asked about his rare escapes from football, he revealed: “A-ha is my secret passion, it’s not secret really, I’m talking to you guys about it. My personality is quite obsessive. When I find something I love, I really love it. With A-ha they have a movie coming out which I will be going to see, the first time at the cinema for a long time.
“They are playing at Bournemouth on May 24 and I will be there. When did it start? It will be ‘85 when Take on Me came out. Modern band? There’s not many I like. I’d say Coldplay would probably be the one I respect the most. They covered A-had as well, which gives them even more respect!”
His musical tastes have stayed still but after discussing transfer budgets and plans for his squad, Howe concluded: “Football never stands still and always moves forward and we have to do the same.”