EDDIE HOWE grudgingly admits he has been through the full gamut of emotions since Newcastle United’s injury situation began to escalate to crisis levels.

First, it was frustration, then disappointment, and after that, concern. Now, though, the head coach’s prevailing mood is one of grim resignation. He has been dealt an extremely bad hand, but he is going to have to play it to the best of his capabilities.

“I’ve sort of been there mentally for a while now,” admitted Howe, as he sat in the press room at Goodison Park, surveying the wreckage of last night’s 3-0 defeat to Everton. “I’ve sort of been through all the emotions really. I wouldn’t say I’m coming out the other side, but I guess I’m coming to terms with it.

“When you’re in my shoes, you can only control what you can control, and some of the injuries we’ve had been things that we’ve had no control over.

“We’re missing some big players, but not just big players, big personalities as well. They can really make a difference within the group, but I have to say that I think the players have done so well to cope mentally with it.

“We’ve beaten some big teams with a hugely reduced squad, and that should give us real confidence for what’s ahead. If we can add some players back, and they’re in good condition, that would give us a huge lift.”

That remains a big ‘if’ at the moment, with Howe understandably reluctant to go into too much detail about the state of his injured players ahead of Sunday’s trip to Tottenham given that they have been working away from him while he was on Merseyside ahead of the Everton game.


Sean Longstaff and Joe Willock would appear to be closest to making a return, with Sven Botman also having stepped up his training programme in the last few days. Given the length of Botman’s absence though, and the delicate nature of the centre-half’s knee injury, there will be an understandable reluctance to ask him to do too much, too soon.

Howe has to strike a delicate balance ahead of the weekend, acknowledging the scale of Newcastle’s injury issues and accepting there are members of his current starting line-up who appear to be close to running on empty, but not portraying a difficult afternoon at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as a fait accompli.

He wrestled with the dilemma in the wake of last night’s defeat, particularly when asked whether the fall-off in the final 11 minutes was an inevitable result of mental and physical fatigue.

“I’m in a difficult position to really agree with that because, if I do, then what stops that happening again and again? I think we have to do better,” he said. “But yes, there are then reasons behind every performance.

“We have struggled to change our players in running, to try to have the attacking options that we feel we need to change the game. That’s not there for us, and that’s a big miss. There are some quality, outstanding players that aren’t with us at the moment.

“You can potentially do it for a short period of time, but I do think that the longer you do it, the harder it gets. That’s not to say it’s impossible though, which is why I still feel as though the Everton game was a missed opportunity for us.”

Any side in the league would struggle with having 12 senior players out, as is currently the case with Newcastle, but it must also be acknowledged that when it comes to playing away from home, the Magpies’ struggles this season predate the start of their injury issues.

Last night’s defeat means Newcastle’s Premier League record away from St James’ Park this term reads won one, drawn two, lost four. Take away the eight-goal thrashing of Sheffield United, which increasingly looks like something of an anomaly, and the Magpies’ struggles on the road really would be extremely stark.

“It’s a difficult one for us to understand,” said Howe. “Last year, our away form was very good. We were free-scoring and our defensive record was very good as well.

“This year, apart from the Sheffield United game, we haven’t really got going on the road. It’s certainly something for us to reflect on and analyse because we know we can do a lot better.”

Jamaal Lascelles suffered a dead leg in the closing stages of the Everton game, but the centre-half should be available to face Spurs.

Newcastle (probable, 4-3-3): Dubravka; Trippier, Schar, Lascelles, Livramento; Miley, Guimaraes, Joelinton; Almiron, Isak, Gordon.