Jonathan Woodgate hopes Newcastle United stay patient with Eddie Howe in their long-term bid to become contenders in the Premier League.
Newcastle have refocused their sights on the top of the table after a lucrative takeover by a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the richest owner in world football.
For now, however, the Magpies are battling relegation under Howe – the first coach appointed by the new owners in November.
Newcastle were winless when Howe took over and have only added two victories since, remaining in the bottom three with relegation a major concern.
But after a January transfer window in which Newcastle were the top spenders across Europe, shelling out in the region of £90million for five players, Woodgate believes they will stay up.
The former Newcastle defender told Stats Perform: “Some of the performances they’ve produced have been really good – especially at home, they’ve been decent.
“Okay, away from home, they’ve had a few difficult results, but they’re a good team.
“And you need to give Eddie Howe the time to really implement what he wants to do, because he’s a fantastic manager.”
That was a sentiment Woodgate repeated when discussing the potential for Newcastle to challenge for the title, as they did during his time at the club between 2003 and 2004.
“You’re looking at five years, five to 10 years,” Woodgate said. “It depends on which players you can buy, and hopefully they can stay with Eddie Howe, because I know he can build something there.
“We had a fantastic team there. We were young, energetic, good players, English players, who really had that hunger.
“We had great senior players, Gary Speed, Alan Shearer, Shay Given, Steve Harper, at the time, who were really good behind the scenes and good with the young players as well.
“You need the right balance and the right blend to build a team. We had that in that team in the Bobby Robson era.”
“Balance” is the key again now, Woodgate says, and he believes Newcastle may have found it in January, signing defenders Kieran Trippier, Matt Targett and Dan Burn, midfielder Bruno Guimaraes and striker Chris Wood.
Himself widely considered Newcastle’s best centre-back of the Premier League era, Woodgate sees a player in Burn who has “improved fantastically well”. Guimaraes, he suggests, “is a very good signing”.
“I think they needed someone else in the middle of that park to really be hard to play against, because at times Newcastle can be easy to play against,” the ex-England man added.
“Putting [Guimaraes] in the centre of the pitch, it’ll be a lot more difficult now for teams to break them down.”
“They’ve brought in that balance,” Woodgate concluded. “They did need two full-backs, they needed a centre-back and they needed a centre-midfielder and centre-forward to help Callum Wilson.
“So, I think it’s been a very good window and they haven’t overspent. They haven’t spent £200m like everyone thought they would, but they’ve kept it nice.”