Newcastle arrive at Tottenham on Sunday afternoon, bolstered not only by a recent hot-weather training camp in Dubai, but also by a cultural reboot overseen by Eddie Howe.
Since Howe took over from Steve Bruce in November, there have been a series of changes on and off the pitch, with one of the most significant innovations involving bi-monthly “timeline” sessions.
These involve Howe and his team coming together to hear the life story of a single player, then asking him questions about his background, beliefs, family, and interests. “We really like to find out about players’ personal lives and stories,” Howe said.
“There are a lot of things I think I know about a person, but when they start talking about themselves, their childhood and some of the things that may have happened in their life, you tend to adopt a point totally different view.
“These are things that you wouldn’t normally discover in a normal conversation, so I think it’s very healthy, not just for me but for the rest of the team. It can start not only new conversations, but also new relationships. It makes you have conversations that wouldn’t normally happen.
“We had really interesting discussions and you learn a lot more about a player’s character. I won’t go into details because I don’t think it’s fair, but it’s a very healthy thing to do for everyone.
Howe strongly believes that human connectivity within football clubs goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. “The culture of any organization determines its success,” he said. “It’s all about how people interact with each other and you can stimulate that with little things to get them talking and mixing in different groups. Everything we do is aimed at creating a better work environment and fostering respect. »
Indeed, ‘respect’ is arguably the most important word in the Newcastle manager’s lexicon. “Respect is a huge word,” Howe said. “There is respect between the staff and the players and between the players themselves.
“The best players earn huge amounts of money but it’s about emphasizing that everyone is important, staff member or player, young or old. Getting that right environment is absolutely essential. If you’re not in the team , you have to respect those who play. It’s about how you behave day to day around the place. We have great professionals here and we have great people. If you have great people, you have a chance to create a great team.
Howe believes that severing the link between players’ personal and professional lives is detrimental to the latter goal. “If a player is unhappy off the pitch, he will never perform on it,” he said. “You need to know your players’ private life, you need to know if they have kids, what motivates them, many different factors.
“You need to use that knowledge to try to help disgruntled players find solutions to problems. One of the big areas where we are growing as a club is improving our infrastructure to try to support players.