EDDIE HOWE insists Newcastle fans will soon see the best of Sandro Tonali and has pleaded for the patience with the Italian midfielder.

Tonali made an impressive debut for the Magpies in their 5-1 opening-day thrashing of Aston Villa after joining in a £53m deal from AC Milan in July.

But there have since been murmurings among supporters that the midfielder is struggling to make an impact and has adversely affected the balance of Howe’s team.

Howe, whose side return to Premier League action at Sheffield United on Sunday after their midweek Champions League exploits in the San Siro, said: “I’ve got no doubt we can get the best out of him. We’ve already seen that in the short period of time that he’s been here.

“His performance against Aston Villa was high level. There’s no surprise that performance came after he’d been with us for pre-season, four-and-a-bit weeks of intense work getting to know his team-mates.

“I think since then he’s hardly trained with us. Internationals, injury. I think he’s had one training session in near enough a month, which then gives you a clue. That’s tough for any new player transitioning into a new team. But he’s adapting really well.

“He’s an incredible personality, very stable, committed to the project here and I think he’ll grow as time goes on.”


When asked what specific midfield role he wants Tonali to play, Howe said: “I want him to be himself, which is an outstanding technician, a very good athlete.

“For me, he can play all of the positions in midfield. But we need to give him time. I don’t think we can judge him, or any signings, within a month. Let’s take our time and be patient, because I know the quality of the player that we have.”

Newcastle returned from their midweek trip to Italy with a point after a goalless draw with Tonali’s former club Milan in their first Champions League encounter in just over 20 years.

The Magpies had sealed their second league win of the season against Brentford last Saturday having lost three of their opening four fixtures and Howe senses Sunday’s trip to Bramall Lane is one of real significance.

“We know we are still very early in the season, but the league is forming,” he said. “Opinions are forming and momentum is forming. We want to be on the right end of that. We knew this season was going to be much more difficult and the start was going to be very hard for us.

“This period now, with the Carabao Cup game (against Manchester City) next week as well, heading into the next international break is going to be crucial for us.”

Having taken the Premier League by storm last season, it has been suggested in some quarters that the Magpies have been ‘worked out’ by their top-flight rivals this term. Howe disputes that, along with the suggestion that Newcastle have become too predictable in terms of their tactics.

“You definitely have to constantly evolve, but the speed at which you evolve, you have to be careful that you don't lose your core strengths,” he said. “We will, and always have, continually tweaked things that we think will make us better.

“I don't think we're at a stage where we're predictable. I don't think we're at a stage where we have become easy to play against - not in my opinion - but you always have to constantly have an eye on that, for sure.

“The level or the potential for the team, for the squad, is high, but confidence is such an easy word to use, but such a difficult thing to find sometimes. Hopefully, the last two results will have given us that missing ingredient back. We needed a win. Going into the Brentford game, we were determined to try and break the run of results we had. We did that.”