NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe believes his Newcastle United squad has the quality to overcome their current full-back injury crisis.
First choice right-back Kieran Trippier and deputy Javier Manquillo will both miss the trip to West Ham United tomorrow, leaving the head coach with a defensive headache.
However, Howe does not believe this will derail the Magpies’ upturn in fortunes, and instead thinks this could be just the opportunity Sweden international Emil Krafth, the next in line for the role, has been waiting for.
“From working with Emil, I really like him as a person and as a player. You go back to the Manchester United game, he was outstanding for us that day, both defensively and offensively.
“He is a really, really good athlete and a really good defender,” Howe said. “I am delighted with Emil, delighted to have him in the squad and this is the perfect opportunity for him to have a consistent run in the team.”
Trippier went under the knife earlier this week to fix a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot, an injury suffered midway through the 1-0 home win over Aston Villa at St James’ Park on Sunday.
The injury, which could take up to 10 weeks to heal, is likely to keep Trippier out for much longer than the initial six week prognosis.
Howe does hold out hope the player, the club’s stellar January transfer signing, will play again this season.
“He’s had his operation and that went well, so, that was good news,” he said. “I don’t know at this moment in time how long he is going to be out.
“We hope to have him back before the end of the season but it is a significant injury, which is a big blow to us because he is in good form.”
When asked to place a timeframe on the 31-year-old’s return, Howe reiterated: “No timeline, we just hope to see him before the end of the season. We will just have to see how his early rehab goes.
“This is an opportunity now for someone to step up in his place. We are going to miss his leadership skills and all that he was delivering for us. He has scored two goals in two games, which have been defining moments for us, but we are confident we have enough quality in the squad to cope.”
For the time being, though, the squad will also have to make do without Spaniard Manquillo, who also suffered an injury in the Villa victory, though the damage is not as bad as first feared.
“Manquillo went off injured in the same game after landing awkwardly,” said Howe. “We don’t think that is serious but he will miss the (West Ham) game. Apart from that, it’s as you were.”
Three wins on the bounce have transformed the immediate complexion of United’s season. From deep in the relegation mire to four points clear — and a chance to go seven with a win this weekend.
While fans and pundits flip-flop with emotions, going from positive to negative in a flash, Howe knows his players have got their feet firmly on the ground, win, lose or draw at the London Stadium.
“The beauty of this squad is you have a lot of players who have been in this position before.
“They understand the highs and the lows. The importance of not overreacting when things go well or badly is key,” he said. “And I have seen a group who have trained well, have been focussed, no sign of anyone relaxing or thinking we are anywhere other than in a relegation battle.”
Having seen off Leeds United, Everton and Aston Villa in the last few weeks, things ramp up a notch this weekend against the Champions League-chasing Hammers.
Howe knows his players will have to be at their very best to get anything from David Moyes’ side.
“I think David has one an incredible job, especially when you look at the league position West Ham were in, and the noise surrounding the club, when he went in,” Howe said of his opposite number.
“He has done an amazing job of just calming things down, getting results and now creating a very stable team with a good team spirit,” he added. “They have delivered in a number of games this season, on a consistent basis. All compliments to him and his staff, as we know how difficult this is going to be for us.
“But with the run we have been on, the confidence we have, we have proven we can compete with anyone in this division. We will have to be at our very best levels again, especially physically, where we have excelled in recent games.”