On his return to relegation-threatened Everton, Newcastle manager Eddie Howe will not be afraid to throw Anthony Gordon into a fire as he pursues Champions League qualifying.
After carving up a reputation for himself in the blue half of his home city, the 22-year-old bitterly left Goodison Stadium in January for the Magpies in a £45 million transfer.
Gordon has had to remain patient since — although he allowed his frustration to get the better of him when he was substituted at Brentford earlier this month — having started just two games for his new club, but will hope to play a significant role on familiar territory on Thursday evening.
Eddie Howe on Anthony Gordon:— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) April 26, 2023
"I can only really comment on the player I've seen and he's been very good. He's trained very well and he's passionate, wants to achieve and wants to do well in his career. He's in a good place and he's looking forward to the game." pic.twitter.com/JqP9PInSTr
Asked if he had to be mindful of the hostile reception the youngster could receive, head coach Howe, who has a doubt over defender Fabian Schar, replied: “You don’t want to have or do anything that impacts the team, which is the most important thing.
“This is something surrounding the game, but is not influencing the game in terms of tactical preparation.
“There is nothing I can do to change that. It’s something we need to be mindful of, but I’m not too sure — other than concentrating on how we play — what we can do.”
In a terse announcement of Gordon’s departure, Everton confirmed the player, who had been confronted by angry fans as he left Goodison following a 2-1 defeat by Southampton in January, had submitted a formal transfer request.
He has since insisted the situation surrounding his departure was “misconstrued” but whether he has a point to prove on his return, Howe — who revealed he would speak to the midfielder before the game — insisted he had to play the game rather than the occasion.
The 45-year-old said: “It’s staying very present and not thinking too much, just play the game — which is easier said than done in that environment where probably all eyes will be, he’ll feel, focused on him.
“I don’t want it to become a big talking point in the game.”