A relaxed Eddie Howe met the press on Friday morning ahead of Saturday evening’s televised game against Brentford at St James’ Park and emphasised the need for his team to return to the high level of performance that they have shown over the last 12 months.
On the injury front Howe hopes to have Elliott Anderson available after he withdrew from the Scotland squad, and he also stated that Sven Botman has trained this week and he will be assessed today before a decision is made regarding his availability. On Sandro Tonali however, Howe sounded less positive, “He felt his thigh in training. He came back from Italy duty with a strain. He’s had a scan, but we will see."
And when pressed on the dilemma now facing Anderson regarding whether to pursue an international career with Scotland or stick with England Howe was his diplomatic self. “It’s a difficult one to comment on. It’s for Elliot to discuss. Whatever he decides I will support him”.
Howe was also asked about the health of Academy Head Steve Harper, who suffered a medical episode during the international break.
“Harps is doing well. I was shocked to hear the news and all our thoughts are with him and his family. He's been a tower of strength for me personally since coming to the club. He's helped me and educated me on all things Newcastle”.
On Bruno Guimarães who returned to form with two impressive performances for his country how had this to say: He's been positive. Performed really well in both Brazil games. He's come back with a spring in his step. He's such a big figure and a catalyst for our work.
And when pressed on the situation regarding the players contract, Howe stated that he wasn’t aware of any updates on that front but that discussions are still ongoing. He did stress however that he didn’t think it's anything that is affecting Bruno personally as it's being dealt with by “his people” and not the player.
Questioned on whether changes are needed after three successive defeats, Howe re-emphasised the positive, saying “I have to retain faith in everything that we do, the group of players that we have. It's a long season...I'm very calm in one sense but also anxious to succeed in another and determined to try and win football matches”.
And regarding his midfield selections and formation Howe remained forthright. “If you'd looked at the midfield after the Villa game, you'd say there's no time needed [for them to gel]. It was a thing of beauty really.
Fast forward a few weeks later and people have a different opinion. I don't fall into that trap. There will be an adapting period for Sandro, like there was for Bruno. It's a natural process”.
One midfielder that Howe doesn’t currently have available is Joe Willock and the latest news is that Willock remains unavailable with no target set for a return.
“He's been away in Spain for the last week. Change of environment and focus for him. There's been a disappointment there because he's suffered setbacks.
He's such a key player for us. Our aim is to get him back as soon as possible and back to his best form”.
Brentford Manager Thomas Frank meanwhile played down the loss of Ivan Toney and instead concentrated the positives at his pre match press conference
"We are very offensive-minded anyway. It is clear we lost Ivan Toney as a top player.
"But we've scored eight goals in the first four matches. I appreciate there are a lot of teams that envy us and our ability to score goals. We will do our very best to keep it like that."
Continuing to big up their new offensive approach he continued: "I think we were all over Bournemouth in the second-half in terms of creating chances. "We probably created four or five chances. If you look at the game overall in terms of chances we clearly should have won."
"The mentality in our team is fantastic - this team never gives up, never. We only have one mindset, go again, and try to win, I can't praise my team enough. The performance and character of the team is so powerful."
That mentality was certainly tested in their last outing, where it took a last gasp equaliser to salvage a point at home to Bournemouth.