The major Newcastle United decision that is seeing fans prove the media wrong

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There have been questions asked of Eddie Howe after Newcastle United embarked on a poor run of form.

Blocking out the external noise has always been a challenge for Newcastle United. From the days when Kevin Keegan’s ‘Entertainers’ were lauded for their attacking flair before being blasted for defensive naivety to the ongoing accusations Magpies supporters are deluded and ‘expect’ success, chatter from outside of the region has always been part of life on Tyneside.

The latest bout of ‘advice’ came in the aftermath of an admittedly poor run of form that saw Newcastle exit the Champions League and Carabao Cup, as well as slipping away from the race for a top four spot with some onlookers suggesting Eddie Howe's position was in doubt and that he was under mounting pressure from supporters.

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AFP via Getty Images

Putting the figures behind the statement, the Magpies won just one of their last eight fixtures in all competitions prior to Saturday’s FA Cup third round win against Sunderland. That run saw late heartbreak in a decisive Champions League group stage game against AC Milan, a penalty shoot-out loss in their Carabao Cup quarter-final at Chelsea and demoralising league defeats against the likes of Nottingham Forest, Luton Town and Tottenham Hotspur.

The one main positive from that run came with a 3-0 home win against a Fulham side reduced to ten men by Raul Jimenez’s early red card for a clumsy challenge on Sean Longstaff. Yet that proved to be something of a false dawn with four consecutive defeats taking the shine of what felt like a promising return to form.

Despite the negativity provided by a run of form that threatened to derail a season that offered so much, support for Eddie Howe and his players remained strong, save for a few dissenting voices in the echo chamber that is social media. There was frustration and questions asked of some, understandably given the manner of some of the goals conceded. There was disappointment and disbelief in some quarters when former Magpies striker Chris Wood scored a hat-trick in Nottingham Forest's 3-1 Boxing Day win at St James Park.

Yet despite what some corners of the media would have you believe, calls for Howe to be removed from his position were few and far between. Some would say the Magpies boss has ‘plenty of credit in the bank’ following a remarkable first full season on Tyneside as he led the club into the Champions League for the first time in 20 years and ended a 24-year wait for a visit to a major cup final.

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Newcastle United fans unveil a Wor Flags surfer bearing the image of head coach Eddie Howe.Newcastle United fans unveil a Wor Flags surfer bearing the image of head coach Eddie Howe.
Newcastle United fans unveil a Wor Flags surfer bearing the image of head coach Eddie Howe. | Getty Images

But supporters’ belief in Howe and his coaching staff goes far beyond on-field achievements, it has its roots in something far deeper. Quite simply, despite being ‘the fella from Bournemouth’ who ‘got a team relegated’, Howe has given Newcastle supporters hope, belief and pride in their side - all emotions that were conspicuous by their absence under his predecessor at St James Park.

There is a connection between players, coaches and supporters, something that was visible Howe’s assistant Jason Tindall instigating an on-field squad photo taken in front of the travelling faithful in the weekend win at the Stadium of Light. Howe has struck a chord with Newcastle supporters, insisting they should believe their club can be better after years of being in a loveless, bitter and cold marriage with former owner Mike Ashley.

For just over two years, from taking charge of a club destined for the Championship and moulding them into European challengers, Howe has dedicated himself to squeezing every last drop of potential out of the players he inherited and in ensuring the very best is brought out of his latest arrivals. Some in the national media openly laughed in the face of Newcastle supporters for suggesting Howe would be a good fit for their club prior to his appointment. Similar outlets were back suggesting his time on Tyneside should be brought to an end in recent weeks as an elusive win remained out of reach.

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As we head into mid-January and the Magpies prepare for a testing trio of fixtures where Premier League meetings with Manchester City and Aston Villa sandwich a tough-looking FA Cup third round tie at Fulham, Howe will be tested once, twice and thrice again. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, with several injured players approaching a return to contention.

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Further relief may well come in the form of new additions with the January transfer window now open for business. Who would rule out face-to-face talks over a deal for Manchester City midfielder Kalvin Phillips when the treble winners visit St James Park on Saturday night? He may not be the only new face in Howe's squad, with defensive and forward options also being considered.

But no matter how Howe’s ranks look at the end of the month, he retains the support of the vast majority of the fanbase he has reinvigorated during the first two years of what the Magpies owners hope will be a lengthy reign at St James Park. No amount of external noise can change that fact.

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