Eddie Howe hopes Sandro Tonali feels Newcastle United ‘love’ amid betting investigation scandal
NEWCASTLE: In August, Eddie Howe fell in love with Sandro Tonali, now he hopes the Italian knows just how much Newcastle United cares.
The slick, skilled showing against Aston Villa on the opening day of the Premier League season had Howe head over heels and fans believing Magpies’ transfer chiefs had unearthed a world class gem.
Now, in tougher times, with his biggest battles potentially ahead of him, Tonali was thrust forward by his peers to take the praise and adulation of a fan base still in shock that their star summer signing could be set for a lengthy ban, if Italian authorities come down hard on his alleged illegal betting activities.
Tonali may well find out his fate this week. But even if it results in a ban, the 23-year-old should be in no doubt he has the Geordie nation behind him, according to Howe.
“A big thank you from me to our supporters. That reception at the end today was incredible and it was emotional,” said the head coach.
“He’s going through an incredibly emotional time and the supporters reacted how I hoped they would. I could feel the love between him and them and that will do him the world of good, he’ll feel much better.
“We don’t know what’s ahead for him. He very much wanted to play and perform for sure. There was no decision to make for me, I could see that from how he’s trained so there wasn’t a part of me that went ‘he’s not ready to play football’ it was just about introducing him at the right time and I thought he did well after he came on. Hopefully this is a step forward to him for moving forward in his life.”
If found to have broken rules, Tonali could face a ban of up to three years, which could essentially bring an end to his Newcastle career right in its infancy. Howe, though, is in no mood to speculate.
“I’ve got no idea (Tonali timescale). It’s not something I’m dealing with on a day-to-day basis. I’m hearing little snippets, but I can’t give you that information,” said Howe, following the club’s 4-0 win over Crystal Palace.
“Let’s wait and see, but yes, I think the hardest part is ahead regardless of what happens. Immediately, you get a lot of attention and people are talking about the situation. He’s had the love of the supporters today, but that’s difficult to maintain over a long period of time. Who knows what’s ahead? I just think it’s great for him to know he’s got the support, not just of the senior management at the football club and the manager, but also the support of the supporters, and they’re the most important people.”
Tonali was the talk of English football this week, but he was far from the main event at St. James’ Park.
Goals from Jacob Murphy, Anthony Gordon, Sean Longstaff and Callum Wilson saw Newcastle climb into the European places in the Premier League. And it was Murphy, so often a forgotten man in this squad, who grabbed the headlines post-match.
Howe was full of praise for the winger, who scored once and set up two in only his second start of the campaign.
He said: “Before I came here, Jacob had some difficult moments, but you have to keep coming back. You have to be really resilient, you have to keep turning up, and I believe that if you do the right things off the pitch, then eventually you’ll show the right things on the pitch.
“For me, he’s just been that model of consistency in his approach and attitude. It’s great to see someone who puts that work in rewarded with an opportunity, and then it’s all about taking that opportunity. He’s done that, and it’s great to see.”
Howe gave a rest to top scorer Alexander Isak and PSG night hero Miguel Almiron at St. James’ Park to allow the likes of Murphy and Wilson gametime. He’s likely to turn to both on Wednesday night when Borussia Dortmund are in town.
“You need that squad. We were well aware going into the season the amount of games we were going to have and the schedule we were going to have to negotiate,” Howe said.
“There was always the possibility of injuries and suspensions, and we’ve already seen that happen. In the short period of time we’ve had this season, we’ve already seen it’s going to be a huge physical demand. You have to have players waiting, and the key thing is that while they might be waiting, they have to be ready. Jacob is always ready, and that’s the biggest compliment I can pay him.”