Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has no problem with his players targeting European football next season – even if he would prefer they kept it to themselves.
The Magpies travel to Burnley on Sunday with their Premier League status, which was in genuine jeopardy when Howe arrived as head coach in November last year, already secured in impressive style with Monday night’s 2-0 win over Arsenal simply serving to increase expectation for what may lie ahead.
Brazilian midfielder Joelinton has already suggested Europa League qualification should be an aim for the next campaign and while his manager would prefer those aims and objectives to remain in-house, he does not disagree.
Howe said: “He’s a good guy, Joe, and he’s very positive and optimistic, and I think we should be. I’ve got no issue with that and I want to harness that.
“I want my squad to be confident, ambitious. They have to believe in big things and we have to set targets internally.
“I’d rather it stay internal than external because we have to also manage the expectation around the team. We don’t want them to play under an unnecessary burden and an unnecessary pressure that actually hampers our performance.
“Creating that mix is important, but I’d much prefer to keep things in-house.”
The buzz surrounding Howe’s side stems not only from the prospect of further investment from Saudi-backed owners who spent more than £90million in January, but the manner in which the team has gelled to win 11 of its last 17 league games and put themselves in a position where they could yet finish in the top half of the table.
The 44-year-old said: “It’s an opportunity to finish in the top 10 and it should not be underestimated. We’ll give our all to try to achieve it.”
To stand any chance of doing that, Newcastle have to win at Burnley, where Howe served as manager between his two spells at Bournemouth and emerged from a challenging period stronger for it.
He said: “It was a massive learning curve for me. It was a wonderful opportunity. I respect everyone at Burnley, the owners, the people who gave me the chance to work there, and I really, really enjoyed it, albeit the team was in transition.
“We had a lot of changes to make, not just on the pitch, but off the pitch as well, so when I went back to Bournemouth, I was a much better manager for that experience.
“I learned a lot and was very grateful for the opportunity.”