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NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe insists now is not the time for panic at Newcastle United despite not adding any much-needed forward reinforcements ahead of the start of the Premier League season.
The Magpies head into this afternoon’s Premier League opener with Nottingham Forest still light of the striker and wide attacker they had hoped to sign this summer.
However, they have not been quiet, having spent more than $66 million on three players already.
And while some question whether adding three recruits in the defensive third — Nick Pope, Sven Botman and Matt Targett — has significantly strengthened the Magpies, Howe is confident in the players he has in his ranks at present, especially as he knows there is more to come before the Sept. 1 transfer deadline.
“I love the squad that we have. It’s very competitive. We have strength in every position,” said the head coach.
“I think where we need to strengthen the squad is in case of injuries, which you have to guard against. It’s a long season, a lot of games with the World Cup squeezed in.
“Understrength? No. Maybe a player or two light, possibly yes. It’s never perfect when you’re in my position. You have to do the best you can with the resources you have.”
While frustration has been allowed to build in the fan base, that is not translated across to the club, Howe or his coaching staff.
“There’s certainly no frustration aimed at the club. It’s the circumstances surrounding (deals),” he said.
“There are players who have decided to move elsewhere, but that’s a delicate thing. It’s not always the other club. A whole host of things have to drop for you.
“It’s an ever-moving thing, it’s always changing, but I’m very confident we can do what we need to make the squad as strong as possible.”
An attack-minded player heavily linked to the Magpies in recent weeks has been James Maddison of Leicester City.
The England international No. 10 is understood to be keen to move to the northeast with unrest in the Foxes’ camp this summer.
However, a fee has proven tough for Newcastle to agree, with Brendan Rodgers’ men wanting upwards of $70 million for the player, which would be a Newcastle record purchase.
When asked about the attacker, Howe said: “I’m not going to talk about any individual player in respect to their club. We’re working hard to try and improve the squad.”
The Magpies are set to be backed by yet another sell-out St. James’ crowd for the visit of Steve Cooper’s newly promoted side.
Two-time European Cup-winning Forest have not graced the top flight in England for more than two decades.
Howe is hoping the positivity from last season will spill over into this — well, for Newcastle at least.
“Positivity, enthusiasm, energy — we’re going to need all those things, especially at home. I embrace that and encourage that from our supporters,” he said.
“I think for the players it’s a dangerous thing sometimes as you’ve got to be cool, calm and collected, and stick to our processes.
“The most important thing is to find a way to win the games. Then, hopefully, the feel-good factor can continue throughout the season.”
On the opposition, he added: “We’ve had a good chance to watch them both last season and during pre-season. I think they’re dangerous opponents for us. Steve Cooper deserves a huge amount of credit for the job he’s done.”
On the injury front, Jon Shelvey is the main casualty this summer and the only likely starter set to miss out on the opening day.
Howe said: “Jonjo is in London for another assessment, so we don’t have any clear timeframe for you on his injury. He’s probably the big one to come out of pre-season.
“Everyone else, we’ve got Jamal Lewis and Fede Fernandez who are working their way back to fitness, which shouldn’t be too long. Javier Manquillo is back in training and looked good. We’re not too bad, apart from them.”
One player who looks likely to make his senior United bow at St. James’ is goalkeeper Nick Pope. The England international was a $12 million summer signing from Burnley.
Even though he has walked out at United many times from the away dressing room, Pope cannot wait to swap across the corridor and represent the Magpies in the top flight.
“You’re imagining as a new player what it’s going to be like — that buzz of walking out the tunnel for the first game of the season. It will be a special experience I’m sure,” he said.
“It’s a good test, of course. The Premier League nowadays, as a league, gets tougher and tougher.
“Whoever it had been, you wouldn’t have said, ‘That’s an easy one to start with.’ That just isn’t the case anymore.”