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Opinion

Rubik’s Cube – Eddie Howe always had the solution

2 weeks ago
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As Newcastle United were trying to find a way out of the second tier as we entered the 1980s, like pretty much every other kid, I was trying to work out the solution to my Rubik’s Cube.

It was THE toy you had to have and as it was relatively cheap, pretty much every kid was able to have it, unlike many other crazes of that era (metal detectors, Chopper bikes etc).

With the Rubik’s Cube there was one big problem, you could either do it, or you could never do it.

Generally speaking, people didn’t gradually improve, step by step working out how to do it, it seemed just a case of a very small group of people automatically had the knack.

For the rest of us, it was a case of endlessly, for hours and hours, twisting the pieces round and round hoping that magically you would chance on the solution. If you were part of the masses like me, then every chance that eventually you got so sick of it, you finally just pulled the stickers off and cheated your way to ‘finishing’ it.

The key problem, at least for me anyway, was that there was no logic, or didn’t seem to be. You couldn’t / didn’t just gradually get closer and closer and you could see well in advance how it was going to be successfully finished off. Instead, when you watched the odd person who did have the knack, they appeared to be nowhere near completing the Rubik’s Cube, only for then magically the last handful of twists taking it from seemingly a complete mess, to the final successful solution.

Which brings me, finally, at last, to Eddie Howe.

Specifically, Eddie Howe and pre-season preparations.

Very specifically, Eddie Howe and pre-season preparation, when it comes to what a lot of fans were saying, as the days and weeks went by.

I was amused / bemused to see so many fans questioning Eddie Howe in the close season, not just the perceived lack of transfer activity, but how the pre-season preparations were going generally and in particular, the friendlies.

Consecutive defeats to Mainz 05 and Benfica leaving these supporters questioning tactics, team selection and so on.

Then we had the upcoming double header, two matches at St James’ Park within 24 hours. What was the point of this? How did it make any sense? Why have two games in two days? Surely better off just having one?

Anyway, this was what we saw take place over those 24 hours…

Newcastle 1 Atalanta 0:

Pope, Trippier, Schar, Burn, Targett, Sean Longstaff, Anderson, Almiron, Murphy (Matty Longstaff 82) , Fraser (Bondswell 90) Wood (Stephenson 90)

Newcastle 2 Athletic Bilbao 1

Dubravka, Krafth, Lascellles, Botman, Dummett (Bondswell 70), Bruno (Matty Longstaff 89), Joelinton, Willock, Ritchie, ASM (De Bolle 89), Wilson (Munoz 90)

Eddie Howe’s Rubik’s Cube had come together.

He was the one with the knack, the one who always knew what the solution was.

What a surprise…rather than those with countless years of experience on Football Manager. It was the man who took Bournemouth from the brink of non-league all the way through to the Premier League, then came to Newcastle United and became the first ever manager in the PL era to keep a team up who had won none of their opening 14 matches – the third best form in the second half of the season, who knew all along what he was doing.

We all like to see Newcastle United knock in a lot of goals whatever the match, competitive or not, but most of us accept that getting players fit and all pushing together are the key things in pre-season.

Club data has shown that this is the fittest ever NUFC squad, whilst it is very clear how united the players are, most of them (including Matt Targett) involved in that excellent second half of last season from, Sven Botman the only outfield player who needed to be integrated.

Yes, the absolute cherry on the icing would be a stellar attacking signing or two added in these next 30+ days (preferably ASAp), but surely when we have all seen Eddie Howe’s Rubik’s Cube come together in public this weekend, we can feel inspired for the new season regardless of any more signings.

We have a professional set up now, Dan Ashworth and Eddie Howe have built reputations and they are now using their skills to improve Newcastle United, step by step.

In these past two weeks, Newcastle United have played very good quality teams from the top tiers in Germany, Portugal, Italy and Spain. When was the last time that in pre-season preparations, Newcastle faced such a tough schedule?

Yes, the results were mixed, lost two and won two – all by the odd goal, BUT surely now everybody can see that this was a really credible plan to bring Newcastle United towards the point of being ready for the Premier League kicking off?

Eddie Howe has explained that this weekend was all about making sure every first team squad player had a full match, to really stretch them. That is why he split his first team over the two games, giving them a tough match as they played alongside squad players AND denying them replacements them from the bench to make it additionally challenging, as both Atalanta and Athletic Bilbao brought on a lot of fresh legs in the final half hour or so.

Nobody can say for sure what will happen when they cross the white line next Saturday at St James’ Park, what the performance and final score will be.

However, what I think we can be confident of, is that next weekend there won’t be a better prepared or fitter team / squad than Newcastle United.

Eddie Howe has always had a plan, always had the solution. He was never going to need to peel off the stickers on his Rubik’s Cube.

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