Eddie Howe insisted “nothing’s done” despite seeing Newcastle rout Tottenham 6-1 to take a significant step towards a top-four Premier League finish.
The Magpies blasted their way into a 5-0 lead inside 21 minutes on a remarkable afternoon at St James’ Park to leave managerless Spurs, who this week also lost managing director of football Fabio Paratici, in their wake in the race for Champions League qualification.
However, head coach Howe was refusing even to contemplate that the goal they have chased for so long this season is finally within their grasp.
Asked if it would be dangerous to consider the job done, he said: “You’re absolutely right. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of games to come, a lot of points to play for, so nothing was decided today. Either way, nothing was going to be decided.
“But hopefully we can take all the positives from today in terms of performance, confidence and we can use that to fuel us for these games that we have to come. So no, nothing’s done.”
Newcastle could hardly have got off to a better start as they took a Spurs side, playing with midfielder Ivan Perisic in a back four, apart.
Two goals from Jacob Murphy either side of Joelinton’s strike had them 3-0 ahead within nine minutes, and Alexander Isak’s quickfire double made it 5-0 before the opening period had reached the halfway mark.
Harry Kane reduced the deficit within four minutes of the restart as the visitors rallied, but substitute Callum Wilson’s 67th-minute strike made it six for the first time in the top flight since a 6-2 defeat of Norwich in October 2015 and cemented a dreadful visit to Tyneside for the Londoners.
Newcastle will head for relegation-threatened Everton on Thursday evening six points clear of fifth-placed Spurs and with a game in hand, but in no mood to celebrate just yet.
Howe, who revealed his own celebration would be “watching this game back with a cup of tea and a biscuit” said when asked about the mood in the dressing room: “I want the players to be happy and content, but I want our focus to be on preparing for Everton now.”
Spurs left St James’ with skipper Hugo Lloris, who made way at half-time injured having conceded five times, issuing an apology.
Lloris told Sky Sports: “It was very embarrassing. The first thing is we should apologise to the fans who travelled and who watched the game.
“It is difficult to analyse the performance, but the first thing was a lack of pride. We did not show a good face today. We could not match the performance of the Newcastle players, we were late in all aspects of the game.
“You can get punched once or twice and you concede, but on the pitch was something strange like we could not even react to bounce back into the game.
“We can try to find excuses, but we missed the fight. If you go on the pitch without the desire to win the battle, it makes things very hard. It was a bit of a mess.”
Interim boss Cristian Stellini, who insisted afterwards that he wanted to stay in his job and that Spurs could yet secure a top-four finish, accepted responsibility for a traumatic afternoon.
He said: “There are no words to explain a performance like this. The first 25 minutes were maybe the worst I have ever seen.
“What I can say is we have to apologise to everyone and I hope that today is my responsibility because changing system was my decision, so like I said, I hope this was the problem.”