Anthony Gordon’s contentious move to Newcastle has not yet gone to plan, but Eddie Howe has branded the team’s USA preseason tour ‘a real chance’ for him to kickstart his progress at the club.
The Magpies will face a trio of English rivals in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Harrison, New Jersey this summer as part of the Premier League Summer Series.
And Howe thinks the trip could be instrumental for Gordon, who has struggled for playing time in Tyneside since a $56.8million (£45m) January move from Everton.
‘I think your first preseason is a real chance to get to know absolutely how we play,’ he told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview.
‘I think he’ll have an idea now, but I think we can really bed that down during an intense preseason.’
Anthony Gordon is without a goal or assist since making the switch to Newcastle
But Eddie Howe is bullish on the youngster’s talents and says there are ‘high hopes’ for him
Gordon has started just three league games since making the switch to Newcastle and has strong competition for wide attacking spots in the likes of Joelinton, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron as the team pushes for Champions League qualification.
Still, Howe is bullish on the 22-year-old’s abilities and isn’t concerned with the way the move has turned out to date.
‘Anthony in particular is someone we’re really excited by, and I think January recruitment is notoriously difficult for players to come into your team as the season’s already started,’ he said.
‘We have real high hopes for him next year.’
As Gordon and his teammates are trying to impress Howe in the American heat, they’ll visit the city where Almiron made a name for himself.
The Paraguayan was an MVP candidate and MLS Cup winner across two seasons with Atlanta United, and became the most expensive outbound transfer in MLS history when Newcastle forked over $27million (£20m) for him in 2019.
Howe has overseen a massive transformation at Newcastle with the club now in third place
After a difficult three-and-a-half seasons in England, Almiron has massively turned a corner this year with 11 goals to his name. And his coach has his eyes peeled open for the next talent ready to make the jump from the US.
‘I’ve always been a big fan of the American league, I think it’s something through recruitment you watch. And I’ve watched a lot of players over the years – thinking, seeing whether they could adapt to the Premier League,’ Howe said.
‘I don’t think it’s an easy thing to do, but I think it is possible, and I think Miggy would be a great example of someone that’s transitioned across brilliantly. This season especially he’s exploded into goals and some amazing performances for us.
‘So we’re always on the lookout for the next potential star that we feel could make the difference.
Speaking from Newcastle’s training ground on Wednesday, Howe called the team’s high-pressing style ‘Miggy in a nutshell.’
And that strength of his was surely nurtured in MLS, where teams like the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City are among the many to suffocate opponents in their own half.
Former MLS star Miguel Almiron has had a tremendous season for Newcastle with 11 goals
Almiron starred for Atlanta United in MLS before joining Newcastle in January 2019
‘I love the energy,’ Howe said of MLS. ‘I think a lot of the players in the MLS are very athletic, the style of play is intense. I admire that.
‘With the times we’ve come up against teams on our tours, we’ve had some tough games. And I do believe especially in the younger age groups there’s some real talent there, that has the potential to come and play in Europe, many of them.
‘Many of the players will be good enough to make that step if they see their career going that way. And I think it’s a market and a league that’s improving as well. Every year I think the standard elevates with players and coaches also improving. So I think the potential is very, very high for what could be in the future for the MLS.’
While Howe will focus on this weekend’s trip to Leeds – and the three games after that – before thinking too deeply about his team’s preseason tour, an air of crisis no longer hovers over his job as it did upon joining Newcastle.
Second from bottom and without a win all season when he joined the club in November 2021, the Magpies are in third place with this year winding down, and a team scrambling to stay up for parts of last season is now closing in on Europe.
Even Howe is surprised.
‘I think at the start of the season we were – after a really difficult relegation battle the season before – we were hoping to consolidate our place in the Premier League really,’ he said. ‘So we were hoping to stay away from danger, improve a lot of aspects of our team, and then try and consolidate to then move forward maybe the seasons after.
Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson have fired Newcastle into Champions League contention
‘But we’ve accelerated that process beyond what we though we were capable of, which has been an amazing thing to experience, and now the challenge is to continue to get better, which is very difficult.’
It won’t be long, though, until Newcastle is on American soil, with the club set to face Aston Villa in Philly on July 23 before facing Chelsea and Brighton.
And while Howe will hope for a smooth preseason to once again ignite a strong campaign, he sees another potential result of the trip.
‘If we can build our supporter base there, then that will please me [to] no end,’ he said.
‘I feel it’s such an important area of the world, and think it’s really building in its love for football, for soccer. So that’s a great thing to see from here in the UK.’
For now, four more games stand in the way of what seemed unthinkable last August.
Howe isn’t expecting a waltz to the end line.
‘Sometimes,’ he said, ‘the hardest thing is to finish it off.’