Eddie Howe opens up on ‘hardest part ahead’ for Sandro Tonali

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Eddie Howe had admitted the hardest part is yet to come for Sandro Tonali after watching him play a cameo role in Newcastle’s 4-0 Premier League victory over Crystal Palace.

The 23-year-old Italy international, who could face a lengthy ban if he is found to have breached betting rules by an ongoing investigation in Italy, was applauded warmly by the Toon Army before, during and after Saturday’s game at St James’ Park.

Tonali and his club do not yet know when he will discover his fate, but head coach Howe is convinced the support he has received to date will help him whatever comes his way.

Howe said: “Let’s wait and see, but yes, I think the hardest part is ahead regardless of what happens.

“Immediately, you get a lot of attention and people are talking about the situation. He’s had the love of the supporters today, but that’s difficult to maintain over a long period of time. Who knows what’s ahead?

“I just think it’s great for him to know he’s got the support, not just of the senior management at the football club and the manager, but also the support of the supporters and they’re the most important people.”

Tonali was introduced as a 69th-minute replacement for Bruno Guimaraes with the Magpies already four goals to the good in what could conceivably be his final game for several months if he is found to have broken the rules and is suspended.

Whether he is able to be involved in Wednesday night’s Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund on Tyneside remains to be seen, but whichever team Howe sends out will kick off brimming with confidence after a comprehensive win over the Eagles.

Jacob Murphy set the ball rolling with a fourth-minute lob which owed a great deal to good fortune – Palace boss Roy Hodgson described it as a “freak” goal – and further strikes from Anthony Gordon and Sean Longstaff before the break and Callum Wilson after it wrapped up the points with the minimum of fuss.

Howe said: “It was a really important game today. It can’t be underestimated how tough those games are because you don’t have a full squad, we’re having to manage players who have travelled a long way and had a big mental load for their countries.

“So I’m really pleased with the players’ response to that because these are very tough games.

“Crystal Palace don’t concede many goals. We knew the first goal today was going to be really, really important and thankfully we got it quite early.”

There’s nothing really positive to say from our point of view

Hodgson’s emotions were understandably different after his best-laid plans were ripped apart before the break.

He said: “We came here thinking and believing that we could give Newcastle a good game and maybe even make life a little bit difficult for them, but we fell woefully short in that department.

“The first half was really nowhere near what we’ve been able to do up to now and what I thought we would still do despite the fact that this is a tough ask against such a good team because they are a hard team to defend against.

“But it didn’t work out and at half-time, we were just looking really at salvaging something from the game and not going away totally and utterly dejected because we’d conceded even more goals than the four we conceded.

“There’s nothing really positive to say from our point of view.”

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