Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has admitted that he didn’t even consider Champions League qualification as he started the new Premier League campaign.
The Magpies completed a remarkable turnaround by securing a top-four finish and making a return to the big stage for the first time since the 2002-03 season with a 0-0 draw against Leicester on Monday evening.
When Howe took the helm in November 2021, the team was severely in danger of relegation, but now they will rub shoulders with the continent’s elite next season.
Howe save the club from relegation in 2021 and reached the Champions League in 2023
Howe said: “This wasn’t in our sights at that moment. We had escaped relegation impressively, from the position we were in.
“We were hopeful of improving and staying away from danger and growing the team to a position where maybe we could compete for Europe in a couple of seasons, so we’ve shot ahead of schedule.
“With that comes big challenges for the future, but when you’re in these moments and there’s an opportunity of something like this, you have to take it.”
The club’s Saudi-backed owners have invested over £250 million in the squad since buying out Mike Ashley, and they have received an earlier than expected return on their investment.
In February, Newcastle reached the Carabao Cup final but lost to Manchester United at Wembley. However, they were determined to secure a place at Europe’s top table and ultimately achieved it.
Howe who was considered in the shortlist for managerial award, added: “The difficulty is there’s no trophy. It’s an amazing achievement, an amazing thing in terms of where we’ve come from in such a short space of time.
“But it feels difficult to celebrate it like you’ve won a league or something like that. It’s right up there, of course it is. It’s an amazing thing at a very special club.