EPL

Eddie Howe can see comparisons between Alexander Isak and Thierry Henry

By Sports Desk April 28, 2023

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe is confident there is more to come from his own “Thierry Henry” after seeing record signing Alexander Isak light up the Premier League.

The Magpies’ £60million summer recruit has been in sensational form since returning from a four-month injury lay-off, taking his tally for the season to 10 goals as he battles Callum Wilson for the right to lead the line.

However, it was a stunning assist in Thursday night’s 4-1 win at Everton which drew comparisons with the mercurial Frenchman as he picked up the ball on halfway and skipped past three defenders on a mesmerising run before crossing for Jacob Murphy to tap in at the far post.

Asked if he could see the comparison, head coach Howe said: “Yes, I can, I can see the comparisons there.

“Everyone is different, there are no two players that are the same, but I do think he has some of the characteristics Thierry had.

“He’s certainly got the speed and a similar build and frame. The footwork for the assist was truly remarkable, really, and I think he’s got a lot of potential to improve and get better.

“But it’s been a great start for him here.”

Eyebrows were raised when Newcastle opted to invest so heavily to prise the now 23-year-old away from Real Sociedad in their search for added firepower, but their faith has been richly rewarded.

Isak scored a stunning debut goal at Liverpool in August, but after just three appearances for the club, damaged a thigh muscle on international duty with Sweden and was sidelined until January.

However, his rich vein of form has been key to the Magpies’ surge into Champions League contention – he has scored four times in his last five games – although his intervention at Goodison Park came from the bench as Howe rotated his in-form frontmen.

Asked if Isak has proved an even better player than he had anticipated, he said: “I don’t think you ever know with absolute certainty.

“Anyone who says that would be lying because until you work with a player close-up and you see them every day, I don’t think you ever know what their true capability is.

“But we’ve been very impressed with everything that he’s delivered to this point, not just technically on the pitch, but his character and how he’s handled certain situations. He’s been first class.”

Nevertheless, Isak will have to wait to see if he gets another chance to impress when struggling Southampton visit St James’ Park on Sunday with Howe having rested Wilson for the trip to Brentford earlier this month after he had scored twice at West Ham, and then done the same to the Swede following his double against Tottenham on Sunday.

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    Philippe Clement has put Rangers’ historic defeat to Ross County down to an “off-day” that even the best teams in the world experience as he looks for a reaction against Dundee on Wednesday night.

    County’s 3-2 cinch Premiership victory on Sunday was the Dingwall club’s first win over Rangers in 25 attempts and dented the Light Blues’ title hopes.

    Rangers are four points behind Celtic, with their game in hand against Dundee at Dens Park getting the green light to go ahead after two previous postponements due to an unplayable pitch.

    Clement’s side have won just two in seven and taken four points from their last 12 but the Belgian was keen to isolate the County display as the first of its kind with deficiencies in structure, organisation and basics since he took over in October and insists such days happen at every club, including all-conquering Manchester City.

    “They were very disappointed in themselves and that is a positive thing,” said Clement, who revealed left-back Ridvan Yilmaz remains out along with midfielder Mohamed Diomande, while defender Leon Balogun is a doubt with illness.

    “I had some clear words after the game and then we had a good debriefing on what went wrong – individually and collectively – and how we can make it better.

    “It was an off-day.

    “It is the first time in six months that I have seen my team like that and I was disappointed. But I think every manager has moments like that, even with teams that win amazing things.

    “I have been watching the series of Man City’s treble last year and I saw quite a few of those moments.

    “It doesn’t mean that I want to see it back on Wednesday of course, but it is part of the game.

    “It’s not something that you want, not the players or manager, fans.

    “But the most important thing is how you react and I have a good feeling about that, that I will see the real face of my team tomorrow.

    “Motherwell (lost 2-1) was a freak accident, we could have won 6-1, we had a lot of chances but it wasn’t our lucky day.

    “The Celtic game (3-3) was a big game, we didn’t start well but we had a great reaction and we played a really good second half and I think it was a deserved draw.

    “But this one on Sunday was a bad one, that is true, so we have to react tomorrow.

    “Sometimes you need a knock on your head to remind you what you need to do to be strong.”

    Clement was pleased to see that the match between Dundee and Rangers is set to go ahead at the third time of asking after a pitch inspection at Dens Park.

    Rangers have already made the trip to the Scot Foam Stadium twice – on March 17 and April 10 – only for the pitch to be deemed unplayable, and contingency plans had been drawn up for the game to be moved to St Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park if the pitch failed its latest inspection.

    He said: “People who decided to play at Dens Park are sure that there will be a game tomorrow and that is a very positive thing.

    “They know the weather forecast probably and they are certain that the pitch will cope with that.

    “So it’s good for us to know where we will play and people from Dundee and Rangers are happy that we can finally play the game.”

  • Chance to do treble again an ‘inspiration and motivation’ – Bernardo Silva Chance to do treble again an ‘inspiration and motivation’ – Bernardo Silva

    Bernardo Silva is motivated by the prospect of making history as Manchester City chase an unprecedented second successive treble.

    City have put themselves in a strong position to retain the three trophies they won in glorious fashion last year after taking control of the Premier League title race at the weekend.

    Pep Guardiola’s side are now two points clear of rivals Arsenal and Liverpool with six games remaining.

    Their attention now switches to the Champions League and the second leg of a quarter-final tie against Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday that will begin with the aggregate score at 3-3. They then head to Wembley on Saturday for an FA Cup semi-final date with Chelsea.

    Midfielder Silva said of City’s triple target: “Of course it’s obviously (an) inspiration and motivation.

    “We want to create that legacy and win another Premier League, to do six in seven years and four in a row, and we want to win the Champions League, to do two in a row, that only Madrid did (with) three in a row. No-one else has won consecutive Champions Leagues, if I am not mistaken.

    “If we can win two trebles in a row, that no-one did, that would be legacy. That is definitely motivation.

    “It’s very difficult as in one week we could be out of all the competitions, but we are fighting for it and going to do everything in our power to be, each day, a step closer that goal.”

    Manager Pep Guardiola, who was speaking alongside Silva at a press conference, was more circumspect in detailing his ambitions but made clear his team will be giving everything to achieve the maximum.

    He said: “I am not going to say don’t feel this to my players when they feel this, but I have a different opinion. We are far away from those hypothetical dreams.

    “When we are in the final of the FA Cup, and (have) two or three games (to go in the Premier League) with an advantage, and in the final of the Champions League, I will start to think about that. But not before a game against Real Madrid.

    “We have a lot of difficult games. It is one game at a time and it is Real Madrid tomorrow. I started to think of the treble last season when we beat (Manchester) United in the FA Cup final.

    “The success for me this season is that we are still there, in this position four or five weeks away, still in contention. It’s incredible.

    “Now, extend the chance one more week, then one more week. This is what we try to do tomorrow and Saturday and the next games.”

    Guardiola, as a former Barcelona captain and manager, has had a fierce rivalry with Real Madrid throughout his career.

    This is the third successive year his City side have played Real in the Champions League knockout stages, with the Spanish side going through in 2022 but the Premier League outfit prevailing a year ago.

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    Guardiola said: “Real Madrid in this competition is always a big game. It’s been special for me as a player and manager, but that doesn’t count. What counts is what we have to do to win tomorrow.

    “I don’t fear them but I respect them a lot.”

    City hope to have Kyle Walker back after five games out with a hamstring injury.

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    Hadad, who was on hand when Edwards and his Team Progressive topped Colin Wharfe 38-19 at the recent TTFA's elections and Extraordinary Congress in Couva, is now delighted to move on with his personal life, having done enough for football in the twin island republic for the past four years.

    Edward's administration is the first self-governed TTFA in more than four years. This as William Wallace's administration was removed months after being elected in November 2019, as FIFA intervened and installed the Hadad-chaired Normalisation Committee in March 2020, citing financial concerns.

    “I have no intention of doing anything more. I am quite happy to move on with my personal life. I love fishing, I love the outdoors, and I’m going to continue in my quest for some personal, private time, without anything hanging over my head, like football," Hadad declared.

    That said, the local businessman, whose four years in charge was to oversee the liquidation of a multi-million TTFA debt that stood for decades, believed he did his best to complete the mandate given to him by FIFA.

    “I was very satisfied with what we were able to achieve. I think that the last four years have brought us (to) a better place and I’m content with that. I don’t think I can please everybody, and I don’t think I will ever please everybody," he said.

    “The Association, I would think, they are in a pretty good place. The Association is debt free, save an except for the financial arrangement with FIFA which will be paid off over the next ten years. The rest of it is up to Mr Edwards now and the membership, to take football forward,” Hadad added.

    While applauding the large turnout of TTFA delegates at Saturday's elections, Hadad, whose four years in charge was to oversee the liquidation of a multi-million TTFA debt that stood for decades, expressed optimism that football will not only move forward, but more importantly, impact lives enough to assist in decreasing the crime rate.

    “I’d like to congratulate the TTFA members. I think they were very professional coming out in their numbers, 100% attendance. The normalisation process is completed," Hadad said, adding that debtors had been paid, with the exception of disputed matters involving Englishmen Terry Fenwick and Peter Miller, which are before the local courts.

    “There are two matters before the court and those matters have to be resolved. The trustee Maria Daniel will continue working to bring those matters to a close,” he noted.

    Meanwhile, Edwards praised Hadad and his Normalisation Committee for the work done.

    “The Normalisation Committee played a crucial role in Trinidad and Tobago football. We need to understand that, and we need to acknowledge the service they would have given to Trinidad and Tobago football," the new TTFA president shared.

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