LONDON: It was anything but pretty, but these days, with Newcastle United, things rarely are.
When it comes to cup competitions, progression is the sole aim — and it is a good job, as the Magpies will not win any beauty contests for their scrappy FA Cup fourth-round win at Fulham.
Goals from Geordie boys Sean Longstaff and Dan Burn, either side of halftime, ensured Eddie Howe’s men left Craven Cottage with a spot in the last 16 of the competition.
And while Geordie minds turned to the draw for the next round, with Newcastle just 180 minutes away from a Wembley return, more pressing matters were brought into sharp focus by head coach Howe in his post-match press conference in West London.
Just a matter of days remain of the January transfer window and while Howe has been desperate to add to his ranks, all of the talk has been of exits. Howe, though, admits he has no assurances from above that departures will not dominate the end of the trading period, which comes to a close on Thursday in England.
He said: “We want to keep everybody. As the manager of the club, that’s my wish, but of course it’s never that simple. Let’s wait and see what the next few days bring.
“It’s difficult because I’m not in daily or hourly contact with what’s going on. I’m sort of a step removed from everything. There’s a possibility someone could leave before the window shuts. I think I made that clear in the press conference (on Friday). I don’t think that’s changed, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
When asked whether he would take the window closing now so he does not lose anyone of note, Howe added: “Would I take that? Yeah, I probably would. If you gave me that choice now, I would probably take it.
“I’m probably as much in the dark as you are. I’ve been out of contact for 24 hours. Let’s see what happens when I get back into what else is happening, other than this game. I think if we’re able to go with the same squad that we have had, then I would take that.”
The most high-profile players linked with an exit this week have been skipper Kieran Trippier, club captain Jamaal Lascelles, No. 9 Callum Wilson and Champions League goal scorer Miguel Almiron. Two of those four — Lascelles and Almiron — were absent from the Magpies’ squad on Saturday.
Howe, though, said there was nothing sinister in their absence, with Al-Shabab-linked Almiron ill and Lascelles, interesting Besiktas, injured.
“Miggy is genuinely ill,” said Howe. “He’s been so important for us. Last year, he was a big goal-getter for us. This year, he’s worked incredibly hard, and he’s been reliable for us. He’s always been fit. He hasn’t missed many games, and that’s been vitally important for us when we’ve had so many injuries to our attacking players.
“He’s not underestimated by me in terms of his personality and what he produces on the pitch. Of course, I’d like to keep him.”
On potential interest in Lascelles, Howe added: “Not that I know of. There’s no interest, no. He’s just got a slight tight calf; we don’t think it’s anything serious.”
Meanwhile, Trippier moved to address the links to Bayern Munich, claiming he is fully committed to the Magpies.
The 33-year-old England international was subject to three separate bids by the Bundesliga giants, all of which were rebuffed by Newcastle. And while Trippier admits to being complimented by their interest, he is happy on Tyneside.
“There’s no place I’d rather be,” he said. “There’s been a lot of speculation about me recently but, as always, I’m committed here — 100 percent committed, as I have been since I first signed.”
On the interest from Bayern, Trippier said: “It’s over. As I’ve said before, I’m committed. I’ve had a nice break with my family and I’m not worrying about anything. I’m committed to the club; they’ve done a lot for me and I want to give back.
“I’ve been quiet but not thrown my toys out of the pram or anything. I’m happy here, like I’ve always said, and want to give everything for the club.
“I’m old enough now and have been around the block. At my age, I can only take it (Bayern’s interest) as a compliment. I’m here now and want to give everything for Newcastle.
“Unsettling? No, because I’m a professional. I’m experienced and try to block all the noise out.”