NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe believes the opportunity is there for Sean Longstaff and Miguel Almiron to cement their long-term future at Newcastle United.
Paraguayan Almiron is set to start Sunday afternoon’s Premier League encounter with Leicester City at St. James’ Park, with Ryan Fraser’s hamstring problem likely to keep him out.
Longstaff, on the other hand, is almost certain to remain on the bench due to Bruno Guimaraes’ form in United’s midfield.
Howe believes Almiron, linked with a move to La Liga this summer, and Longstaff, whose current contract with United ends in June, both have a future at Newcastle and are valued. However, it’s up to the duo to prove it to the public when they get the chance to feature in the club’s final seven games of the Premier League campaign.
“It was in no way a reflection of Miggy,” Howe said when asked about Almiron’s lack of starts.
“It’s probably like Ryan and Maxi (Allan Saint-Maximin), who did very well in the supermarkets.
“Miggy is a player we really like; he has a very contagious attitude. He works extremely hard, and I think he did really well when he came against Wolves; he gave us another dimension. He ran behind and pressed very well.
“I would like Miggy to do well in her race and to do really well. He has trained very well behind the scenes and his attitude has been great from day one since we arrived. I have good hope. If there is an opportunity for him, he can really take it.
Howe accepts there will come a time when Longstaff will be frustrated with his lack of playing time at United, particularly when delivered when called up, most recently at Stamford Bridge.
The head coach doesn’t think the time is right for him, especially with talks of a new deal underway.
“Talks are continuing,” Howe said of the negotiations.
“He’s someone I have a lot of time for, a lot of respect for. He has definitely improved despite the fact that he hasn’t played. That hasn’t been shown to the general public yet. We have seen a real improvement in his performance in training.
“He’s definitely someone I like and I see a long-term future for him here. I just hope we can sort out the contract.
Will the lack of games make it difficult to convince the 24-year-old to stay at his boyhood club? Howe revealed the player has responded well to his training methods – and that’s something he will realize when given the chance.
“Sean, when he gets an opportunity in the team, I think he’ll take it because of the way he’s been training and his general attitude around the place,” Howe said.
“There is a lot of talent there. He’s an incredible athlete, and I think he has a sense of purpose. He will have his chance.
“I think he feels invested. As coaches, we look at all angles of his game and look for ways to take his game to the next level.
“I know there will come a time when he will want to play, will have to play. But at the moment he is well placed, supporting the guys in the team, and he sees the proof that the team is succeeding.
“He is fine at the moment. But in the longer term he has to play.
Meanwhile, Howe has admitted he has sympathy for Jurgen Klopp after the Liverpool boss made it clear he wanted the Magpies’ game against the Reds moved from its Sunday April 30 slot to lunch time.
The encounter is sandwiched between Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final and Villarreal’s home and away matches.
Howe said: “It’s a very difficult situation. They had a lot of success this season and ended up playing a lot of games. I understand it from their point of view. I would probably have the same opinion as them.
“Over the years, if you look at it, we’ve all been in that situation where you’re like, ‘How was this game moved in that era? But we have very little to say about when encounters happen and how they play out. Just react and deal with it.
“I have all my sympathy for Liverpool.”