Newcastle manager Eddie Howe will have no qualms over fielding Anthony Gordon at former club Everton on Thursday as the Magpies continue their quest for Champions League qualification.
Gordon, 22, left Goodison Park for Newcastle in the January transfer window, for a fee that could rise to £45 million ($56 million), with his move from his native city of Liverpool sparking an angry response among some Everton fans.
The winger has had to wait for his chances at St James’ Park and was clearly frustrated when substituted at Brentford earlier this month, having started just two games for his new club.
Howe, asked at a pre-match news conference on Wednesday if he was concerned about a hostile reception Gordon could receive at Goodison, 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.”
When the Toffees announced Gordon’s exit, Everton said the player, 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 said the situation regarding his departure from the club was “misconstrued”, but Howe said Gordon had to play the game rather than the occasion.
“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,” explained Howe. “I don’t want it to become a big talking point in the game.
“For me, it’s not important. It’s important for Anthony and it’s important that he comes through the game in a good way, but what’s important is that the team functions and we show our best selves.”
Of Gordon’s nine Newcastle appearances to date, seven have come off the bench, including Sunday’s 6-1 Premier League rout of top-four rivals Tottenham.
“We have seen glimpses of potential, glimpses of what he can do,” said Howe of Gordon. “Putting it all together for 90 minutes, we have not seen that yet.
“I am really pleased with him and I know he will be a high-quality player for us in the future and I know he is going to be the right signing for us because of the way he has reacted to the move.”
Howe added it was vital complacency did not set in among his side following their thrashing of Spurs.
“It’s hugely important that we don’t settle, that after a victory like we had on Sunday, we don’t sit back and relax with that,” he explained.
“That is the wrong emotion. We have to use the confidence we have from the game, the way we played, the manner of the performance and use it to fuel us even more to try and recreate those moments again.”
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