Eddie Howe has vowed to adopt a siege mentality once again as Newcastle prepare for a first Champions League campaign in 20 years.
The Magpies have dragged themselves from the thick of a Premier League relegation fight when the club’s new owners took control in October 2021 to Europe’s top table in the space of a remarkable 19 months.
They have done so with the help of a £250million-plus investment, provided in large part by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which holds an 80 per cent stake, and the source of that wealth has prompted concerted criticism, with human rights campaign group Amnesty International in particular voicing concerns over “sportswashing”.
That focus is only likely to increase as they strengthen further before taking to the European stage, but head coach Howe has insisted his mission will not be derailed as a result.
He said: “We’ve been used to that from day one, to be honest. There’s been that feeling that popularity-wise, I don’t think we’re high up on people’s lists for various reasons.
“You accept that, I’ve got no issue with that and almost we’ve tried to use that for our benefit and for our gain, really.
“I’ve said we’re not here to be popular, we don’t care, really, about outside opinion. We very much care about inside opinion, we care about what the people of Newcastle think of us and what our supporters think.
“We’ve tried to act in the right way and make them proud, that’s been our biggest focus.”
Newcastle will bring down the curtain on a season which has delivered far more than they might have expected back in August at Chelsea on Sunday, where they will face a club which has spent around £600million since Todd Boehly completed his takeover last summer, but will end the campaign in the bottom half of the table.
That tends to suggest that money alone is not the key to success, and the way Howe has blended his new arrivals with the players he inherited and has since improved markedly has been equally, if not more important.
Asked if he regretted the focus on finance, the 45-year-old said: “I don’t really take it personally as in my achievement because it’s not really my achievement, it’s the achievement of the players who have committed to this season and what they’ve given. That would hurt me for them.
“I think the players deserve huge credit individually for some of the seasons that they’ve delivered and collectively for what they’ve done.
“I’ve said many times sitting here, it’s not about money. Money has played a part, it’s been a contributing factor, of course it has.
“But we’ve seen teams up and down the Premier League spend similar amounts of money and not have the success and not be as consistent as we have.”