Eddie Howe's in-tray at Newcastle: key challenges

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Newcastle manager Eddie Howe (AFP/Glyn KIRK)
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Eddie Howe will have untold riches at his disposal in his new job as Newcastle manager but he faces an enormous challenge just to keep the club in the Premier League.

The former Bournemouth boss, who was not first choice to succeed Steve Bruce following last month's Saudi-led takeover, will have to galvanise a club who are second from bottom of the top flight.

AFP looks at some of the main challenges the 43-year-old faces at St James's Park.

Star quality?

Eddie Howe will have to work with the players at his disposal until the January transfer window.

The dressing room still includes Karl Darlow, Paul Dummett, Isaac Hayden, Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle, who helped to drag the club back into the Premier League following relegation at the end of the 2015/16 campaign.

The standout star is French forward Allan Saint-Maximin, 24, who offers, pace, power and dribbling ability while striker Callum Wilson, 29, who played under Howe at Bournemouth, is another major asset.

Both men have been sidelined for significant periods in their time at the northeast club but keeping the pair fit and in form is vital.

January sales

Newcastle co-owner Amanda Staveley promised long-suffering fans "world-class players" after the takeover, allowing them to dream big.

The financial restrictions imposed by former owner Mike Ashley allowed the squad to stagnate, and what money that was available was not always invested wisely.

Brazilian forward Joelinton, who signed from Hoffenheim in 2019 for a club-record fee of £40 million ($54 million) has not scored a single goal this season.

The Magpies have otherwise traded largely at the lower end of the market.

Howe's squad needs significant improvements as quickly as possible, meaning targets have to be identified early and pinned down quickly, even if the club's new-found wealth means prices are likely to be inflated.

Fans will dream of a statement signing such as a Lionel Messi or a Neymar but that might have to wait.

Fixture headache

Eddie Howe's first game in charge -- at home to out-of-form Brentford on November 20 -- looks winnable and they also face fellow strugglers Norwich and Burnley in the coming weeks.

But the stark fact is that the Magpies have not won a single Premier League match this season and only goal difference is keeping them above bottom club Norwich.

December's fixtures look particularly daunting, with consecutive matches against Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Other clubs such as Watford and Aston Villa are struggling badly at the wrong end of the table but Howe knows Newcastle cannot afford to be cast adrift before the transfer window arrives.

Fan pressure

Newcastle fans went wild outside St James's Park when the takeover was confirmed last month, confident they will at last be able to compete on level terms with the biggest clubs in the Premier League.

The Magpies have not won a major domestic trophy since the 1955 FA Cup and have become a byword for underachievement and mediocrity.

Newcastle United Supporters Trust chairman Greg Tomlinson said fans were delighted to have Howe at the helm.

"Great to have Eddie Howe confirmed as new #nufc manager," he tweeted.

"A great appointment, a progressive, modern manager. Despite what you'll read in parts of the national media our fan base will be fully behind him from day 1. A big challenge to stay up but our long term future is bright."

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