Eddie Howe says Newcastle can still make difficult season very special

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The Magpies sit in ninth place in the Premier League table.

Eddie Howe is confident Newcastle’s topsy-turvy season can still end on a high note as he targets FA Cup glory.

The Magpies slipped to ninth place in the Premier League table after a dismal 4-1 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday evening, and have looked some way off the pace they set last season, when they roared to a top-four finish.

But as they head into Tuesday night’s FA Cup fifth-round trip to Sky Bet Championship Blackburn, head coach Howe is convinced a campaign which has featured a famous Champions League victory over Paris St Germain, but also an untimely exit from Europe, could still have a happy ending.

He said: “We are still in the throes of deciding where this season ends up. Nothing is decided for or against us.

“I definitely want to squash that feeling that we are feeling sorry for ourselves because that has negative connotations. We need the players excited and ambitious, thinking brightly about the future.

“This season can still be very special for us, but we have to make it happen.”

Howe has been able to plead mitigating circumstances for much of what has happened so far this season with injuries having eaten significantly into his resources, but he was making no excuses for the horror show at the Emirates Stadium.

Instead, he refocused on progression in the FA Cup and the task of securing a European berth for the second successive season, even if the Europa League or Europa Conference League now look more realistic options.

He said: “Of course, qualifying for the Champions League was unbelievable last year. But if you can’t make that again, then we have to look for the next best alternative.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, and for me, they’re (the Europa League and Conference League) realistic objectives and we’ll give everything we can to achieve it.”

It is perhaps no coincidence that the Magpies’ difficulties have intensified since the loss of powerhouse midfielder Joelinton. He suffered a thigh tendon injury in the FA Cup third-round victory at Sunderland which is likely to sideline him for much of the remainder of the campaign.

Howe said: “We’ve missed Joe’s qualities, especially physically, his robustness, his abilities in duels, set-plays for and against.

“We’re very lucky to have a midfielder that’s as big as he is and as competitive as he is and whenever you lose those qualities, you notice when they’re not there.

“He’s a very unusual midfielder, really, a prototype. You don’t get many like him and it’s certainly been missed, what he can bring.”

The 27-year-old Brazilian has played a key role in the club’s resurgence since emerging from a miserable start to his career on Tyneside, and his future remains uncertain with a contract wrangle – his current deal expires next year – unresolved.

Howe said: “That’s always been in my mind as an absolute priority, to try to get him to stay at the club long-term. I see that as hugely important.”

Eddie Howe says Newcastle can still make difficult season very special

The Magpies sit in ninth place in the Premier League table.

Eddie Howe is confident Newcastle’s topsy-turvy season can still end on a high note as he targets FA Cup glory.

The Magpies slipped to ninth place in the Premier League table after a dismal 4-1 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday evening, and have looked some way off the pace they set last season, when they roared to a top-four finish.

But as they head into Tuesday night’s FA Cup fifth-round trip to Sky Bet Championship Blackburn, head coach Howe is convinced a campaign which has featured a famous Champions League victory over Paris St Germain, but also an untimely exit from Europe, could still have a happy ending.

He said: “We are still in the throes of deciding where this season ends up. Nothing is decided for or against us.

“I definitely want to squash that feeling that we are feeling sorry for ourselves because that has negative connotations. We need the players excited and ambitious, thinking brightly about the future.

“This season can still be very special for us, but we have to make it happen.”

Howe has been able to plead mitigating circumstances for much of what has happened so far this season with injuries having eaten significantly into his resources, but he was making no excuses for the horror show at the Emirates Stadium.

Instead, he refocused on progression in the FA Cup and the task of securing a European berth for the second successive season, even if the Europa League or Europa Conference League now look more realistic options.

He said: “Of course, qualifying for the Champions League was unbelievable last year. But if you can’t make that again, then we have to look for the next best alternative.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, and for me, they’re (the Europa League and Conference League) realistic objectives and we’ll give everything we can to achieve it.”

It is perhaps no coincidence that the Magpies’ difficulties have intensified since the loss of powerhouse midfielder Joelinton. He suffered a thigh tendon injury in the FA Cup third-round victory at Sunderland which is likely to sideline him for much of the remainder of the campaign.

Howe said: “We’ve missed Joe’s qualities, especially physically, his robustness, his abilities in duels, set-plays for and against.

“We’re very lucky to have a midfielder that’s as big as he is and as competitive as he is and whenever you lose those qualities, you notice when they’re not there.

“He’s a very unusual midfielder, really, a prototype. You don’t get many like him and it’s certainly been missed, what he can bring.”

The 27-year-old Brazilian has played a key role in the club’s resurgence since emerging from a miserable start to his career on Tyneside, and his future remains uncertain with a contract wrangle – his current deal expires next year – unresolved.

Howe said: “That’s always been in my mind as an absolute priority, to try to get him to stay at the club long-term. I see that as hugely important.”

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