Newcastle United legend identifies ‘problem’ for Eddie Howe ahead of Champions League campaign

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One Newcastle United legend has delivered his verdict on the progress made during Eddie Howe’s time at St James Park.

Newcastle United legend Les Ferdinand believes the rapid progress made under Eddie Howe has become a ‘problem’ for his former club.

The Magpies were sat in the Premier League relegation zone and without a win to their name when the former Bournemouth manager was named as successor to Steve Bruce in November 2021. However, after a significant investment during his first transfer window and drawing significant improvements out of several players he inherited from Bruce, Howe led the Magpies to mid-table safety by the end of the campaign.

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The momentum carried into Howe’s first full season at St James Park as the additions of the likes of Nick Pope, Sven Botman and Alexander Isak helped the Magpies reach a first major cup final since 1999 and secure a place in the Champions League by defying the odds to claim a top four finish.

By contrast, United have made a slow start to the new season after emerging from their first four games with just one win and will head into Saturday’s home clash with Brentford looking to end a run of three consecutive defeats.

Ferdinand, who plundered his way to 41 goals in just 68 appearances during a two-season stay on Tyneside between 1995 and 1997, insisted there is ‘a lot that needs to be done with the team’ if they are to become consistent challengers at the top end of the Premier League.

He told William Hill: “I think no one expected them to finish in those Champions League spaces last season and they got to the final of the Carabao Cup. I think that’s the problem.

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“All of a sudden there’s an expectation that comes with Newcastle now, that they should be knocking on first place. People think they should be up there, and I don’t think they’re quite there yet.

“Still, there’s a lot that needs to be done with the team. I think another top-four finish would be a good season for them. Everyone’s having a panic because they’ve lost against Liverpool, they lost against Man City, two tough games, but I think they’re doing okay.

“Eddie Howe’s made a couple of changes to the team, spent a bit of money and it takes time for players to gel. There’s just an expectation with Newcastle at the moment that they should be pushing on.”

Ferdinand missed out on representing the Magpies in the Champions League after departing Tyneside just a months before United hosted Barcelona in their first ever group stage game in September 1997.

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Howe will lead the club into only their third ever group stage campaign on Tuesday when they travel to Serie A giants AC Milan before facing Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain in what has roundly been accepted as this season’s ‘Group of Death’.

Ferdinand aimed to temper expectations ahead of the Champions League adventure and insisted his old club will not be able to progress from a group containing three European heavyweights.

He said: “It’s building stages and I think that’s where the Geordies are the moment. People around are scared that they don’t make the Champions League again, because realistically they’re getting knocked out of that group.”

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