Eddie Howe sees debut as Newcastle manager delayed by positive Covid test

By Louise Taylor
Eddie Howe speaking to the media, via Zoom, on Friday morning. He tested positive for Covid-19 later in the day
Eddie Howe speaking to the media, via Zoom, on Friday morning. He tested positive for Covid-19 later in the day. Photograph: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United/Getty Images

Eddie Howe has tested positive for Covid-19, meaning Newcastle United’s new manager will miss what was supposed to be his first game in charge of the club against Brentford at St James’ Park on Saturday.

Despite experiencing no symptoms and looking a picture of health during a media address conducted via Zoom on Friday morning, Howe, who has been double vaccinated, recorded a positive result during routine testing conducted at the club.

“I’m very disappointed that I won’t be there with you all at St James’ Park tomorrow but it’s incredibly important I follow the guidelines and self isolate,” said Howe, who will now delegate managerial duties to his assistants, Jason Tindall and Graeme Jones, while following the match remotely from a Newcastle hotel room.

He must now isolate for the next 10 days, missing next weekend’s trip to Arsenal. “I’d like to reassure everyone I feel fine and while this is unwelcome news for me, I know it hasn’t derailed our preparations for an important game.”

Howe, who will be absent from the training ground and technical area until Newcastle meet Norwich at St James’ Park on Tuesday week, has indicated he intends to rebuild Newcastle United around Jonjo Shelvey. The midfielder, undeniably gifted and blessed with a stellar passing range, has spent significant periods of his St James’ Park career on the sidelines after being dropped at times by Rafael Benítez and, more recently, Steve Bruce.

Howe, though, seems to have identified a player signed by Steve McClaren as integral to Newcastle’s philosophical transition from a defensive, counterattacking side to a much more front-foot, possession-based team.

Joelinton (right) has found goals hard to come by at Newcastle.
Joelinton (right) has found goals hard to come by at Newcastle. Photograph: Jane Stokes/ProSports/Shutterstock

“I knew how good Jonjo was, having played against him and watched him many times, but when you actually work with him you realise he’s an incredible technician,” said Howe. “He’ll be someone very important for us as the season develops.

“Jonjo can play all sorts of passes, long and short. In terms of our philosophy and how we want to to play, he’s someone who’ll be very important to us.”

As Newcastle seek their first win of the season, Howe will also be hoping to “unlock” the ability the Brazilian forward Joelinton displayed at Hoffenheim before struggling horribly after a £40m move to Tyneside in the summer of 2019.

“Joelinton can be a huge player for us,” he said. “From what I’ve seen in training he’s got very, very good feet, he’s very good technically and he’s intelligent. Unlocking that talent and ability and playing him in the right position are things I’m assessing but he’s got a big part in our future here.”

Unlike certain St James’ Park predecessors, Howe did not shy away from using two P-words: philosophy and principles. He said his first 10 days of training had been about instilling his playing principles.

“We’re having to implement our philosophy in a gradual manner so the players aren’t overloaded but the basic fundamentals of how we want to play, of our core principles, I’d like to think you’ll see that against Brentford,” he said. “I would like to think you’ll see a Newcastle team playing in the way I want them to; a way that also befits what Newcastle supporters want to see as well. How quickly can we get there? We’ll see. But I’d like to think you’ll see a team doing the city proud.”

Howe, who admits the decision whether to recall the newly fit Martin Dubravka in goal at Karl Darlow’s expense represents a “tough call”, has been so immersed in coaching that, bar one pub lunch in Gosforth with his coaching staff, he is still to explore his new habitat. “I’ve seen the training ground and my hotel,” he said. “I haven’t seen [central] Newcastle in the light of day yet.”

Lee Charnley has left Newcastle as the club’s Saudi Arabian-led owners prepare to appoint a new chief executive. Charnley had filled that role for the past seven years but spent a total of 22 years in various administrative roles at St James’ Park.

He agreed to stay for a handover period after the end of Mike Ashley’s tenure and departs on good terms with Amanda Staveley, Newcastle’s co-owner. “His knowledge and assistance have been hugely appreciated by the new board,” Staveley said.

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