Eddie Howe readies for another bottom-of-the-table battle royale | Soccer


It’s Eddie Howe’s first match in charge of Newcastle on Saturday, reader, and the generally amiable chap was probably mighty relieved to be back on less bumpy ground at his Friday press conference after squirming through his unveiling, when he was asked countless times for his thoughts on Saudi human rights abuses. Back then a man who The Fiver has always considered an intelligent, calm and likable sort grew as red-cheeked as a fictional public schoolboy rotter as he repeated the phrase “it’s a football decision” so often he could have been mistaken for the pull-string puppet of a blood-soaked regime. What? Oh.

With Friday’s press conference kicking off before the sun had barely risen, our proper news reporting cousin, Scoop Fiver, wasn’t able to ask any tricky questions so Howe was free to stick to what he prefers and “block out the noise” of that other stuff. After easing into proceedings with a bit of box-ticking – “I will treat the club like it’s my own family … I’m all in here” – he shifted on to the dire standard of performances, which have left them mired in the relegation filth. With the memory of failing to save Bournemouth still relatively fresh in his mind, is Howe having sleepless nights about another bottom-of-the-table battle royale? “I don’t tend to struggle to sleep,” he yawned. “At Bournemouth, every year we were in a relegation battle … so I’ve been in the position many, many times. It’s not nice … it’s not where I want to be but … drawing on past experience is going to be helpful. I’m under no illusions about our current situation and what we need to do.”

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What they need to do is start winning games, something they haven’t done in any competition all season – not even the Rumbelows Cup! With reports that Howe has worked players so hard in training that some have been on their knees, we can probably expect a little more zip in their play when they host Brentford. Though The Fiver’s eyebrows were raised to Ancelotti-like levels when we heard him reserve particular praise for legendary No 9 Joelinton and red-card magnet Jonjo Shelvey. “When you work with him you realise he’s an incredible technician and can play all sorts of passes, long and short,” honked Howe of a man The Fiver wouldn’t trust to deliver a letter, never mind a full 90 minutes on a football pitch. “In terms of our philosophy he’s someone who’ll be very important to us.”

It’s a bold shout, given many Newcastle fans see him and Joelinton as liabilities, but Howe can only work with what he’s got until January so why not blow smoke up their backsides? The new man at St James’ Park also said he’s “only seen Newcastle in the dark so far”. For Howe’s sake we’re hoping he’s referring to the city and not the team, because watching this bunch of misfits in the harsh light of day might come as something of a shock.


“If you think about me I never smiled on the pitch, I never smiled in 20 years. I never once saw football as a joy. Then, when I left football, I could become me and get rid of that. I used to take it home with me at night and it used to ruin my week, as it did all of us” – Gary Neville comes tantalisingly close to being a STOP FOOTBALL advocate.

Gary Neville, happy at home, earlier.
Gary Neville, happy at home, earlier. Photograph: Football Business Awards/Getty Images


“Has anyone been following the case of Edward McClung, 50, who is claiming he was turned down for jobs because of his diehard support for the Pope’s Newc O’Rangers? Ingeniously, he maintains this amounts to discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010 on the grounds that his support constitutes a philosophical belief. I know The Fiver treasures its philosophical credentials and will want to follow this story to its end with all the glorious consequences that may ensue for football supporters throughout the land” – Tom Harrison.

“Continuing the theme of players lining up together to create a phrase (Fiver letters passim), in 2014 QPR signed Jordon Mutch to play alongside Richard Dunne and Yun Suk-young. Whether a commentator was ever able to reel off the special line ‘Dunne to Mutch, Mutch to Yun’ I don’t know, but it seems unlikely given that season’s QPR team were unable to string two passes together” – Richard de Winter.

“If you create FiverCoin (yesterday’s Fiver), will transactions, security and payouts adhere to your current standards of punctuality and exactitude? Cuz if so … huh” – Seth Kleinschmidt.

“With regards to Wayne Rooney making moves in the NFT world (yesterday’s Fiver), I’d point out that Roy Keane has been dishing out near-fatal tackles for years” – Declan Houton.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Richard de Winter.


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