Eddie Howe has told the doubters to lay off under-fire Dan Burn and says he is one of his best-ever signings, even if his place in the Newcastle team is not guaranteed.
The left-back has come in for criticism following his performance during last weekend’s 4-4 draw at home to Luton, when a section of fans chanted for him to be replaced by Tino Livramento.
But Howe has come out in defence of Burn, reminding supporters of his contribution to the club’s rise since his £13million arrival from Brighton two years ago.
‘Criticism is a strange thing, and I’m sure I’m getting absolutely slaughtered out in the wider world,’ said the head coach, whose ninth-placed side travel to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
‘You know it’s happening but you don’t expose yourself to it. From my side, I prefer to keep myself away from it and I’m sure Dan is the same because he’s experienced.
Dan Burn received criticism for his performance against Luton last weekend
Fans chanted for Tino Livramento to replace Burn as he struggled at full back at St James’ Park
Eddie Howe has defended Burn and believes he has been an ‘incredible signing for me’
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‘As long as Dan feels the love from everyone internally, and I’m sure the supporters value him greatly, actually. A lot of the noise is probably coming from other sources. He needs to be celebrated for his career and for what he’s done since he joined the club, not the other way around.
‘He has to be right up there in terms of the most important signings we’ve made. You have to take yourself back to where we were (19th in the Premier League). It was a very difficult market to sign players and attracting them to come was incredibly tough. Dan was one of those players who was desperate to play for Newcastle, and he’s never lost that love and enthusiasm for the club.
‘He’s been an incredible signing for me, much better than I could have hoped. We were in a dire situation and he was one of the players that helped galvanise the group, and he’s still doing that on a daily basis, so I can’t speak highly enough of him.’
Burn returned early from a broken back in December after missing just five weeks, and Howe says that should not be forgotten.
‘He showed tremendous courage to come back way ahead of schedule because you could see the team needed him,’ he said. ‘He’s played in a little bit of discomfort, especially in the first couple of games. He’s got through that and I think he’s on his way to feeling really good again.’
For all of that, Howe insists he will always pick players on form, not what has gone before.
Howe reminded fans Burn broke his back earlier this season, and has shown ‘tremendous courage’ to return ahead of schedule
‘It’s always about merit,’ he said. ‘No part of me gives a starting berth to a player based on what they did last year, that would be ridiculous. It has to be based on what I see every day in training, and taking into account the games.
‘But you have to remember, Dan broke his back not so long ago, came back early for the benefit of the team and we were only too keen to welcome him back. We’d missed his presence in the team, so he’s earned his place.
‘Three games ago he scored against Fulham, and against Aston Villa he was made man of the match. He’s a huge leader for us and a big presence physically and vocally.
‘That doesn’t guarantee him a place in the team, of course, but it’s just to understand his qualities. As always in football, you’re judged on the last few seconds. That’s how it’s always been and that’s how it has to be.’