Howe on a hiding to nothing: Neil Humphreys
Stopgap Magpies manager must somehow inspire stopgap players
Welcome to Newcastle United, Eddie Howe, even though you were not first, second or even third choice.
Congratulations on joining a club steeped in heritage, built on the backs of millions of proud, working-class Geordies, an industrious club for an industrious manager, a perfect fit.
Yeah, that club no longer exists.
The old Newcastle had a reputation for extraordinary loyalty, from the fans at least, turning up in their tens of thousands in a one-club city, no matter how farcical the football got.
And, my word, the football got farcical. Relegations, promotions, a brief flirtatious period with silverware and the odd managerial breakdown, an owner with a chain of cheap sports stores and a stranglehold on a cheapened club, Newcastle were going nowhere fast.
All the Magpies ever wanted was stability in the boardroom, a pot of cash with no questions asked and a bit of time for an experienced manager to forge a new identity.
Well, two out of three isn't bad.
Howe and Newcastle were made for each other, a humble boy made good in management and a humbled club desperate for good management. This was a match made in Geordie heaven, if Howe had joined the old Newcastle.
But this is the new Newcastle, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which is valued at around US$450 billion (S$606.4b) and expects more bang for its buck. In sportswashing terms, avoiding relegation and enjoying a decent cup run barely cleans a pair of football socks.
However, to underline their increasing desperation, the new owners hired a respected manager capable of producing attacking football on a small budget. Howe has a proven track record in overachieving with an underwhelming squad.
None of which is a long-term ambition at St James' Park.
Certainly, English Premier League survival is critical in the short term. Midweek Championship games at Millwall are presumably harder to sell on Saudi TV. Avoiding relegation is everything.
In this regard, the Magpies have their man. The 43-year-old steered Bournemouth from League Two to the EPL, a staggering achievement, and then kept the comparative minnows in the top flight for five seasons. He's the ideal candidate to beat the drop.
But he may manage himself out of a job, especially if he proves successful in coaching the players out of their jobs, too.
Newcastle's public relations battle for the hearts and minds of gullible supporters isn't likely to be won with Karl Darlow, Ciaran Clark, Jacob Murphy and Isaac Hayden leading the charge. Solid pros, no doubt, but the Magpies still haven't won a single game this season, in any competition.
Global domination looks an unlikely prospect at this stage.
But Howe is stuck with them until January, when he reportedly has around £200m (S$365.4m) to throw at agents, who may stop laughing long enough to sprinkle St James' Park with a few overpriced crumbs.
How's that for a motivational speech in the dressing room? Play well, lads, and you'll be replaced in January.
Even better, how's that for a sales pitch in the transfer window? Join us, lads, and you'll line up with the sub-standard players that we couldn't sell in January.
A similarly schizophrenic proposition must also be on the table for the new Newcastle manager. Just consider the two scenarios.
Stabilise the club, Howe, until a more prestigious replacement can be found. Or, relegate the club and any other replacement will be found.
Howe wasn't so much the right man for Newcastle as he was the only man for Newcastle, after other candidates - Unai Emery, Brendan Rodgers, Lucien Favre et al - were clumsily pursued in public before they decided that overeager stalkers are best avoided, even rich ones. It doesn't bode well.
The Magpies have hired a stopgap manager to lead stopgap players out of the relegation zone so that they might eventually be rewarded with bigger names taking their jobs.
What could possibly go wrong?