Eddie Howe has built solid defence at Newcastle after adding Sven Botman and Nick Pope – all for price of Harry Maguire | The Sun

AS foundations go, Eddie Howe may well have just built the most rock-solid one seen in the Premier League at Newcastle.

The Magpies had one of the worst defences in the league under Howe’s predecessor Steve Bruce.

But after just eight weeks of transfer activity, across January and June, it has been transformed — all for the cost of Harry Maguire.

An England keeper in Nick Pope between the sticks.

An England and LaLiga-winning right-back in Kieran Trippier.

A league winner in France and one of Europe’s most highly-rated young centre-backs in Sven Botman.

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A colossus 6ft 7in local hero in Dan Burn. And a solid-as-you-like left-back in Matt Targett.

All of a sudden, one of the weakest back fives in the Prem now looks like a top-eight defence at least.

The giddy Toon Army are busy debating when they last had such a strong unit.

Some point to Shay Given, Aaron Hughes, Jonathan Woodgate, Titus Bramble and Olivier Bernard under Sir Bobby Robson.

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Others to Shaka Hislop, Warren Barton, Steve Howey, Philippe Albert and John Beresford under Kevin Keegan.

Given Newcastle have not exactly been known for keeping things tight over the years, some reckon the class of 2022-23 will be the best ever.

New signing Botman certainly thinks so, saying: “Ultimately, Newcastle United’s great project, in combination with playing in the Premier League, was the deciding factor.

“That last one has been a dream my whole life. AC Milan also gave me a good feeling, but Newcastle United felt just a little better in the end. 

"I really wanted to go to Newcastle United in January, because I also heard, and that’s a cliché, I know, that a train like this doesn’t pass by very often.”

So with that glaring defensive weakness significantly upgraded for just over £80million, attention turns to the  fun part.

Newcastle scored the 12th most goals last year, too often reliant on Callum Wilson — who was injured for large chunks — and Allan Saint-Maximin for inspiration.

A move for exciting Reims striker Hugo Ekitike hit the buffers over agent demands, leaving new sporting director Dan Ashworth pursuing other targets.

Ideally, Howe will be handed a new winger and striker.

With Chris Wood, Ryan Fraser, Miguel Almiron and Jacob Murphy around, too, someone — like Ekitike — who can play in both roles would be a happy compromise if they cannot sign two.

Ultimately, Newcastle United’s great project, in combination with playing in the Premier League, was the deciding factor.

There is an interest in Chelsea’s Armando Broja and Leeds’ Jack Harrison, while Moussa Diaby of Bayer Leverkusen remains an ambitious target.

Midfielder Lucas Paqueta is another not to be ruled out as Howe is a big admirer of the Brazilian, who looks set to leave Lyon.

The early summer arrivals of Targett, Pope and Botman means this is the first time the Mags have signed three players before the end of June since 2011-12.

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With Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse up front they finished fifth that  season under Alan Pardew.

And if Howe can add goals to his — on paper — watertight defence, something similar could be just around the corner.

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