'Targets identified' - Eddie Howe's season debrief, transfer hope and tearful Newcastle farewells

Eddie Howe has indicated that the hard work for next season has already started at Newcastle United.

In between "gentle" post-season training sessions and a spot of much-needed relaxation time Down Under for the both the players and his backroom staff, Howe pondered budgets, decisions, contracts and recruitment. The Newcastle chief never fully switched off but knows that the Magpies must "go again" in 2024/25.

There was no celebrating finishing seventh as Newcastle's team bus rolled along the M4 from Brentford to Heathrow ahead of a 25 hour journey from London to Melbourne via Dubai. A quiet satisfaction of a 4-2 win, yes but, Newcastle always knew their fate was out of their hands.

And there was a quiet realisation that even before Manchester United had beaten Man City, Europe was a possible non-starter. That's why some players knew that the end of their journey with Newcastle was upon them and there were some tearful and emotional goodbyes behind the scenes.

READ MORE: Four consequences of Newcastle's failed Euro bid & the silver lining for Eddie Howe

READ MORE: The brutal Press coverage of Newcastle's 8-0 thrashing in Australia

With the European Conference League tour now snatched away from Newcastle over the weekend, it will be a more straight-forward domestic programme with more training time on offer and for better or worse, no Thursday night European matches to deal with.

Howe told Chronicle Live exclusively: "It is all about next season now. It'll be good to be back on home soil and start preparing for next season. European qualification is massive in terms of revenue. It plays a part in the future."

It feels like there is now clarity on some contract calls with Loris Karius, Paul Dummett and Matt Ritchie set to leave, something Howe admitted would be the case if Manchester United won the cup. A clutch of young players also kicked their last balls for the Magpies.

When asked about transfer activity, Howe said: "It's very early days but it will be a long summer. We are working hard to get our targets identified and begin negotiations. There are a lot of unknowns in the market, we will see how things fall for us."

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe  and assistant Jason Tindall walk out at Marvel Stadium
Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe and assistant Jason Tindall walk out at Marvel Stadium -Credit:Newcastle United via Getty Images

The feeling is that Newcastle's budget may be even more limited now that Europe is off the menu. As they work with FFP and PSR rules, Howe accepted it would not be a major overhaul having been unsure in the lead-up to discovering their Euro fate.

He told me in Melbourne: "I don't think it will be an overhaul but I am not in control of it. Some things might happen so you don't know. I have seen it so many times where things you don't expect unfold. So we have to be ready to adapt.

"I think the most important thing that must happen is we have a stronger squad at the end of this window when we leave it. But there's no guarantees of that. I can only work as hard as I possibly can to make sure it happens."

Newcastle endured a tidal wave of criticism for agreeing to go to the money-spinning end-of-season tour to Oz. But they were well within their rights to do so with a seven-figure cheque at the end of it.

It allowed them to network with a 4,000 strong Aussie fanbase and help build their global brand. Howe said: "End-of-season tours bring a lot of debate. But we were there, and when you are there, you have to go all in to give everything to make it as good as it can be. That's what we tried to do.

"I thought the Tottenham game was a really good one. I think as these games go we knew it would be a lower intensity match. Both sets of players feeling each other out to start with. Then not wanting to take risks with their bodies after a long flight, jetlag, not ideal preparations to play. We came through the game OK and with no injuries and then won the shoot out."

When quizzed about playing the reserves in the second game against a strong A-League All Stars team, which ended in an 8-0 defeat, Howe said: "I could not take any risks with any players. I could not jeopardise their future going into next season. It was about giving an opportunity to the younger players to see who might play a part in the first team next year. I am sure some of them will see it as a turning point and see they have a lot more to do to get to the first team."

Newcastle did not take a full squad to Australia but still brought along stars like Alexander Isak, Kieran Trippier, Callum Wilson, Bruno Guimaraes, Joelinton and Miguel Almiron. That made the trip worthwhile for many fans alone. Was it a risk to push the players through one more game though?

Howe explained: "We had our sports science team on the plane going round looking after each player. We had a very gentle wake up session on the morning of the game against Spurs.

"We also gave the players a little bit of free time to unwind in Melbourne. There was a lot of emotion in that season and then coming into the game against Spurs. We had a very low key game plan. I did not want the players to over extend themselves too much. I wanted to make sure the players were not sprinting, that was my biggest worry for us."

Newcastle's seventh placed finish proved to be inadequate to get into Europe in the end. But Howe felt that his players gave their all and finished three points shy of a European spot.

The head coach said on the final position: "Yeah I think it was (satisfactory). We did our bit to keep our standards really high to try to win as many games as we could.

"From the trip to Dubai onwards the form was very good. There were a lot of high points after that. Because after that Man City FA Cup game. "It would have been very easy for our results to tail off. So I am really pleased with how the players handled that last part of the season."

Howe tried to wind down with his staff by visiting the soap opera HQ of Neighbours, admitting it was his idea to do so!

Howe said: "Unfortunately, I am the guilty party on that one! Graeme Jones was also very keen. Purchy (Stephen Purchess) was least keen but he came along! I grew up with Neighbours in the 80s and 90s and it was very much a part of my childhood.

"I was determined to see Ramsay Street, so we got there and seen the set and the street, it's smaller than I expected it to be. Just by chance on the way home, the driver said that's where they film it.

"So we stopped the car so we went in. Before you knew it we were behind the camera watching a scene and meeting all the actors. It was a brilliant couple of hours for us. Really enjoyable."

Howe wanted the final word on the trip to go to the supporters after thousands turned out in Australia to show their love and warmth for the team - even after the 8-0 loss. It was then that Howe told the players to go over to fans for selfies and autographs at the Marvel Stadium.

The head coach also explained how it would have been close very difficult to field a stronger team in the second game.

Howe said of the fans: "It was an unbelievable effort. The amount of Geordies from Newcastle we have seen has been amazing. They have travelled such a long way. It always amazes me.

"I am surprised but I shouldn't be. I have occurrences on a daily basis where you find out the loyalty of the supporters. It was not people from Newcastle. People travelled from all over Australia and from Japan, China, Singapore and beyond.

"We could only do what we could do. To play three games in no time at all with 24 hours of travelling was too much to expect. I had to protect the players, especially with next season in mind."