Eddie Howe says Newcastle United surpassed their own expectations by reaching the Champions League, but he is already eyeing a trophy as his next target.
The Magpies secured a top-four finish with a 0-0 draw at home to Leicester City on Monday, ending a 20-year wait to return to Europe's top club competition.
Howe, who was appointed as Newcastle boss in November 2021 following a Saudi Arabia-backed takeover of the club, admitted that he surprised even himself with the rate of improvement after last season’s relegation battle and bottom-half finish.
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Asked on Sky Sports what the pre-season objective was, Howe said: “It certainly wasn't top four.
“You always have to hope and dream but we didn't feel we were ready for that after battling relegation.
“It was about consolidating and becoming a better team. And not have that flirtation with relegation. The lads have been unbelievable, their mentality, their attitude."
Newcastle sit third in the Premier League standings ahead of their final game of the season away to Chelsea on Sunday.
Howe also led the Tynesiders to the League Cup final in February, where they lost to Manchester United, and said that ending the club’s 68-year wait for a major trophy is among his targets.
"I want success massively for this football club,” Howe said.
“The only difficult thing is that although you feel like you've achieved something great there is no trophy. We want to bring silverware here in the future."
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Newcastle’s controversial takeover propelled them into the elite group of the wealthiest clubs in the world, but they have spent carefully so far in the transfer window – a policy that Howe says will continue.
“There is a small pool of players we can recruit. We have to recruit wisely, which we have done. This will be our toughest transfer window,” he said.
Magpies midfielder Sean Longstaff, a lifelong Newcastle fan, was only five years old the last time his club competed in the top tier of European competition.
"If you told us two years ago this was going to happen, we wouldn't have believed you," Longstaff said.
"We've beaten Juventus here 1-0 [in the Champions League], you see it on old DVDs. To be a part of this, I'm buzzing. It's going to be special."
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