NEWCASTLE: Coach Eddie Howe has defended Newcastle United forward Allan Saint-Maximin after seemingly divisive comments by the player in the French press this week about his teammates sparked controversy.
The Frenchman told So Foot magazine that he would have more assists if he had better players around him. Both Howe and the player moved quickly to clarify the potentially inflammatory statement.
Following last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool, Saint-Maximin was quoted as saying: “Those who have played with me know very well that in terms of pure quality, I have nothing to envy from (Liverpool winger) Sadio Mane.
“The day when I have a player capable of finishing the actions (from my assists), I will have seasons with 10-15 assists and I will change opinions in the people’s heads.
“Doing things that make an impression, changing the rules, that’s the goal. Like what Michael Jordan managed to do. Jordan, he changed some people’s lives, he gave people work, and that’s the beauty of it.”
Saint-Maximin’s comments did not go down well with the Newcastle fans, and Arab News understands some within the Magpies’ ranks did not appreciate them either. The player took steps to head off any lingering issues with teammates by explaining the comments to Howe, and providing clarity in the dressing room.
“Allan’s quotes didn’t come across in the way that he meant them to,” said Howe. “He was concerned yesterday. In no way did he mean to damage the team or unity. It wasn’t in the context that he meant, although it happened. We will be speaking with the squad and making sure there are no fall-outs.”
Howe also revealed Saint-Maximin is unlikely to face a club fine over the incident.
“Ideally, I wouldn’t want any of my players speaking about anything other than themselves or their own career,” he said. “Players don’t need to talk about other players or other players from other clubs. For me, it’s always about us and protecting the team and everything we say. It’s about giving off united and positive messages, even in difficult moments.
“(I have) no concerns over his mood. I don’t think he’ll be fined for that situation; it’s more a case of education and making sure players know what we expect.”
Saint-Maximin posted a message on Twitter to explain his comments. He said they were not intended to be negative and he was simply speaking “like any fan would.”
He wrote: “The interview I did with So Foot has been taken out of context and shortened on Twitter. I never said anything negative about my teammates, I simply said as any Newcastle fan would that I was looking forward to having an even better team so that we could progress collectively. And that as a result I could also progress individually.”