Newcastle boss Eddie Howe will not shy away from pitching Anthony Gordon into a cauldron on his return to relegation-haunted Everton as he targets Champions League qualification.
The 22-year-old left Goodison Park in a £45million switch to the Magpies in January in acrimony, having made his name in the blue half of his native city.
Gordon has had to remain patient since – although he allowed his frustration to get the better of him when he was substituted at Brentford earlier this month – having started just two games for his new club, but will hope to play a significant role on familiar territory on Thursday evening.
Asked if he had to be mindful of the hostile reception the youngster could receive, head coach Howe, who has a doubt over defender Fabian Schar, replied: “You don’t want to have or do anything that impacts the team, which is the most important thing.
“This is something surrounding the game, but is not influencing the game in terms of tactical preparation.
“There is nothing I can do to change that. It’s something we need to be mindful of, but I’m not too sure – other than concentrating on how we play – what we can do.”
In a terse announcement of Gordon’s departure, Everton confirmed the player, who had been confronted by angry fans as he left Goodison following a 2-1 defeat by Southampton in January, had submitted a formal transfer request.
He has since insisted the situation surrounding his departure was “misconstrued”, but whether he has a point to prove on his return, Howe – who revealed he would speak to the midfielder before the game – insisted he had to play the game rather than the occasion.
The 45-year-old said: “It’s staying very present and not thinking too much, just play the game – which is easier said than done in that environment where probably all eyes will be, he’ll feel, focused on him.
“I don’t want it to become a big talking point in the game.
“For me, it’s not important. It’s important for Anthony and it’s important that he comes through the game in a good way, but what’s important is that the team functions and we show our best selves.”
Seven of Gordon’s nine Newcastle appearances to date, the last of them in Sunday’s 6-1 Premier League romp against top-four rivals Tottenham, have come from the bench and while he is pleased with his contribution to date, Howe is confident there is more to come from him.
He said: “We have seen glimpses of potential, glimpses of what he can do. Putting it all together for 90 minutes, we have not seen that yet.
“I am really pleased with him and I know he will be a high-quality player for us in the future and I know he is going to be the right signing for us because of the way he has reacted to the move.”
Sunday’s rout of Spurs re-ignited the Magpies’ European charge and Howe and his players are in no mood to relax as the season’s climax approaches.
He said: “It’s hugely important that we don’t settle, that after a victory like we had on Sunday, we don’t sit back and relax with that.
“That is the wrong emotion. We have to use the confidence we have from the game, the way we played, the manner of the performance and use it to fuel us even more to try and recreate those moments again.”