Sport: Eddie Howe's Newcastle United pre-season aim was clear after Arsenal - and players have delivered

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"As we head into next season we have to put markers down for how we want to be as a team. There is no such thing as a dead game for Newcastle. Not even a pre-season friendly in my eyes. We are very proud to represent the club and we have to represent it in the right way," Eddie Howe said after the 2-0 win against Arsenal in May

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe (l) and Jason Tindall react on the touchline during the pre season friendly match between Newcastle United and Athletic Bilbao at St James' Park © 2022 Getty Images Newcastle manager Eddie Howe (l) and Jason Tindall react on the touchline during the pre season friendly match between Newcastle United and Athletic Bilbao at St James' Park

As the majority of Newcastle United players, staff and fans celebrated the Magpies' win over the Gunners that night, Howe was already thinking about the summer and his side's pre-season preparations. In his press conference that evening he spoke of their being 'no dead games' for his side, whether it was a dead-rubber, end of the season Premier League clash or a pre-season friendly.

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That was the message drilled into the Newcastle first-team well before they were jetting out to Austria or Portugal. In turn, his players have responded with exactly what Howe asked of them against tricky opposition.

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"We wanted a tough test with every game to examine our team, to make sure we were ready for the vigour of Premier League football. I think the last three games have given us that, with top quality opposition who have taken the game to us," Howe said after the 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

"That's the type of test we needed because the level of Nottingham Forest will be very high. None of our players can turn round and say they aren't ready for Premier League football. Now pre-season is done we've got the final few bits of training to get us up to top speed and I'm sure we'll be ready."

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Howe's side ended pre-season with back-to-back St. James' Park wins against Atalanta and Athletic Bilbao in front of a combined 87,000 fans. The Toon boss insists he hasn't finalised his team for the Premier League opener with Nottingham Forest next week.

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