How Leeds United played their part in Newcastle United’s magnificent turnaround

Newcastle United were bottom of the Premier League when Eddie Howe took charge in November. Now, they’re 14th, 12 points above the relegation zone.
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Eddie Howe admits Newcastle United’s 1-0 victory at Leeds United in January was a turning point in the context of their season.

When the Magpies visited Elland Road on Saturday, January 22, Howe’s men kicked off 19th in the Premier League, four points from safety and with just one victory to their name.

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However, a Jonjo Shevley free-kick on 75 minutes sealed a big three points ahead of the mid-season trip to Saudi Arabia and was the start of six wins out of seven for United.

Those run of results helped form a nine-match unbeaten run, which saw the club climb away from the relegation places.

After three consecutive losses against Chelsea, Everton and Tottenham, back-to-back victories versus Wolves and Leicester City in the last week has opened up a sizeable 12-point advantage.

United’s form since January is bettered only by title-chasing Liverpool. A win against Crystal Palace on Wednesday will see them reach the so-called ‘magic’ 40 points total.

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"It was difficult to see it at the time but looking back that was a turning point for us,” Howe said when asked about winning at Leeds.

“We went to Saudi Arabia after that, which was a brilliant trip for the group and we came back in a much better place, united and ready to start the fight to stay in the division.

“To get that positive result before we left, to keep a clean sheet away from home and the performance was a good one, that was a massive, massive result for us that led to the good run of form since.”

Howe also admitted the arrivals of Kieran Trippier, Chris Wood, Bruno Guimaraes, Matt Targett and Dan Burn for a combined total of £90million, were key to the remarkable upturn in form.

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"It’s difficult when you are in it to be worried,” Howe said. “I don’t think worry was the emotion, but I knew it was going to be a really difficult challenge. We had obstacles in front of us.

“The transfer window was a really important thing for us to navigate properly while also playing some key games.

“It was really difficult, we knew how tough it was and we thought it could easily go down to the last game of the season (away to Burnley).

We are still in that moment where we don’t know what is going to happen (if we are safe) but yeah, the transfer window was always going to be key, also getting the best out of the players we had, to give them some confidence so they went on to the pitch thinking they were going to win.”

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Keeping Newcastle in the Premier League will be “right up there” in Howe’s achievements in management, despite taking Bournemouth from League Two to the Premier League.

Howe said: “It would be right up there, right up there.

“I’ve been so focused week on week, and the job’s not done yet. I can’t take myself there in terms of looking back and reflecting. It’s difficult in this moment to do that.

“I’m very much in the moment and focusing on the next game knowing that we’re still in the middle of the battle that we have ahead.

“You may be better asking me if - and hopefully when - we achieve the target."

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