Eddie Howe: Time for Newcastle’s fringe players to shine in season’s run-in

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has called on Newcastle United’s fringe men to be ready to take their chance in the Premier League relegation run-in.

While the Magpies have put some breathing space between themselves and the bottom three — nine points separate 14th-placed Newcastle and 18th-placed Watford — the head coach is refusing to accept any talk of top-flight safety.

And in the final nine games of the season, Howe expects that he will need to call on every reserve in his ranks to get his team to where they want to be.

“It’s always a challenge, you ask any manager, the biggest challenge you have is to keep the squad harmony protected at all times,” Howe said about keeping his players happy ahead of this weekend’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur.

“If players go a long time without playing, that is when your communication skills or your work on the training pitch and your development of them behind the scenes is key. We try to do that with all of our players, whether they’re in the team or out of the team.

“Your relationship-building is so important, I think you have to communicate with everybody at every phase of their career,” he said. “When they get their opportunity, which in football can seem so far away, then in the blink of an eye you’re in the team, you have to be ready to take that chance.”

Howe’s men head to north London on Sunday evening looking to get themselves back on track following two Premier League defeats on the bounce. However, they head to take on Antonio Conte and co. with some new-found weapons in their armory.

As revealed at Southampton, the Magpies are a real threat from set pieces — and that’s not just in the attacking third. The addition of Dan Burn and Chris Wood has seen Newcastle dominate the aerial battles at both ends of the pitch.

Howe said: “I think set-plays are hugely important in the game, I think everybody knows that games are won and lost because of them.

“We have a very good coaching team. We break up our set-plays, we give specific coaches specific areas of the team. I won’t go into too much detail, but there’s Jason Tindall, Stephen Purches, Graeme Jones, and they will all have responsibilities in those areas.

“I think it’s great to bring the coaching team closer to the players in every way, and there’s a lot of work that goes on, a lot of detail that the players are given and that they then have to execute on the pitch,” he said. “It has been one of our strengths in recent weeks, for sure. We’ve scored a lot of massive goals off the back of that work, so credit to the players and the staff.”