NEWCASTLE: Callum Wilson will be like a new signing for Newcastle United when he returns from his long-term calf problem — that’s the view of head coach Eddie Howe.
However, the United chief does not think his top-scorer will be back available until the final few games of the Premier League season.
The Magpies have been without the services of six-goal Wilson, who pulled up with the injury midway through the 1-1 home draw with Manchester United in December, for the last eight games in all competitions.
And with just 12 games left this campaign, Howe is not expecting to see a whole lot more of England international Wilson before May.
Howe said: “He’s been away for a considerable part of his rehab. At the moment, he’s in London getting specialist treatment on his injury.
“Previous to that, he had been in Dubai so we haven’t seen a great amount of him around the training ground but I don’t think that’s been a negative.
“For me, I know he’s away getting looked after and it also helps him mentally. The mental grind of when you’re injured, and I’ve been there many times, when you’re coming into the same place and same treatment, it can have a negative effect on your psychology.
“When he does come back we see a bounce from Callum, he’s very happy, knows he is in a good place and improving.
“What I’d love to see is for him to come back and be like a new signing for us for our final few games.”
In the absence of experienced campaigner Wilson, and international teammate Kieran Trippier, Howe has been forced to lean on one of the more divisive figures in the camp, in fans’ eyes anyway, Jonjo Shelvey.
The ex-Liverpool man has been skipper in the past three games — and while many have questioned whether the player will have a long-term future at St. James’ Park, Howe says his destiny is in his own hands.
“He’s been a really important part of our team, there’s no denying that. He’s an integral part in both phases in the middle of the pitch,” said Howe, whose side take on Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium tonight (kick-off 7:30 p.m. GMT).
“Defensively, he has to perform well. His best performance, defensively, was the Leeds game,” he said. “He had a great tactical understanding of his position and what he needed to deliver.
“I don’t ever worry about him on the ball or in possession, that’s his strength. But I think he’s come a long way in terms of that defensive part.
“I see him as a long-term part of my plans, but he’ll dictate that by how he performs.”
Meanwhile, one player who will no doubt have a big impact at Newcastle between now and the end of the season is Allan Saint-Maximin.
The player made his Newcastle return, following an ankle injury, in the latter stages of the 2-1 home win over Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend.
And while the Frenchman is fit enough to be on the bench again tonight, it’s unlikely he’ll be thrown back into the starting XI, having only returned to light training last Friday.
“He’s not 100 percent fit. He did one day’s training — his first in three weeks — before the previous game,” said Howe. “We are very keen to have him back at his best.”
The Saints encounter welcomes in a run of three games in eight days for Newcastle, with trips to Chelsea and Everton in the offing.
On the injury front, Howe has revealed he’s lost one player for the run, while welcoming back a key voice in the dressing room.
He said: “(We have) Nothing of major concern. There are a few niggles after the Brighton game.
“Matt Ritchie has returned to training, so that’s a really good thing, but no major problems.
“Fede (Fernandez) picked up a very slight side strain.
“We don’t think it’s serious. It’ll keep him out for a week to 10 days.”
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