'The timing couldn’t have been worse' – Eddie Howe reflects on 'unique' experience at Newcastle United

Eddie Howe applauds fans at the Emirates Stadium.Eddie Howe applauds fans at the Emirates Stadium.
Eddie Howe applauds fans at the Emirates Stadium.
Eddie Howe says Covid-19 hit him hard – in more ways than one.

Howe missed his first game as Newcastle United head coach after testing positive the week before last.

The 43-year-old had to watch the Brentford fixture, which ended 3-3, on TV from his hotel room – and he heard the roar of the crowd each time Newcastle scored.

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Howe linked up with his squad for last weekend’s game against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium after a negative test. The fixture ended in a 2-0 defeat for relegation-threatened United.

Asked about his time in isolation, Howe said: “It was devastating for me. I didn’t quite understand, because I did not anticipate that I would have Covid.

“I was told I had tested positive and instantly knew that would mean a period of isolation, and that I would not be able to take the team.

“My first concern was the club and the team and how that would impact on the result, knowing how important every game is for us at this moment. It was a difficult adjustment.

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“Once a few hours had passed, I got my head around it, and it was all about planning to minimise the impact of my absence.

“It wasn’t just the game against Brentford, but the following week. The timing couldn’t have been worse in terms of everything we had planned and prepared, to then miss the key moments was hugely disappointing.”

Jason Tindall, Howe’s assistant, revealed before the Arsenal game that Howe had been struggling with Covid-19 early in the week. However, the former Bournemouth manager recovered through the week.

“Covid definitely hit me physically, there’s no doubt about that,” said Howe. “I feel a lot better now. I’d say I’m rapidly improving every day to get back to feeling my best. It’s certainly something that I’d not really experienced before physically.”

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Howe was in contact with the bench during the Brentford game, though he felt helpless as he was “detached” from the game.

“It was a really unique experience, something I never want to experience again, to be honest,” said Howe. “You’ve got a feeling of control, but I had no control at the same time, because I was detached from the game.

“I could hear a delayed noise when we scored. From so far away hearing that, you think ‘what would it actually be like if I was in the stadium’.

“So I’m looking forward to experiencing that, and really trying to get the crowd to help us on, which I know they will.”

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Howe – who watched recordings of every training session during his time in isolation – says he was the only person within the first-team bubble to test positive for Covid-19.

“As far as I’m aware, it was just me,” said Howe, who succeeded Steve Bruce at Newcastle.

Meanwhile, Norwich City head coach Dean Smith has spoken of his admiration for Howe.

“You know, he's a very good coach, I've got an awful lot of respect for him,” said Smith. “I think he was the trailblazer for young English managers when he got Bournemouth into the Premier League.

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"And he was someone that we could all look up to. We’ve had some really big challenges against his sides.”

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