- Forward relegated to bench after injury
- Frustrated with lack of minutes
- Yet has a good relationship with Eddie Howe
WHAT HAPPENED? The French winger made his first start in five months for Newcastle in their 1-1 draw against West Ham at the weekend. Saint-Maximin suffered a hamstring injury which kept him out of action in the early stages of the campaign. Apart from a close 2-1 loss against Liverpool, the Magpies went unbeaten during his absence and he has struggled to get back into Eddie Howe's lineup since his recovery. Milan reportedly made an approach for the 25-year-old in the January transfer window, and it has been suggested he could leave St James' Park in the summer. Saint-Maximin concedes he is not entirely happy with his current position in the squad, but remains fully committed to the collective cause under Howe.
WHAT THEY SAID: “I want to be honest because I’m not going to lie. When you are in the situation, a lot of teams can see that and think it’s the right opportunity to come and buy the player," he said after the West Ham game. "But I’m very proud to be here, and the most important thing for me is to play. The manager’s choice makes sense because I got an injury. I didn’t lose any game when I was on the pitch (at the start of the season), and this is something very, very important for me. The coach knows that. That’s why I have a very good relationship with him, because he knows what I’m capable of.
"But when I came back from injury, the team was winning a lot of games, so they have a lot of credit to keep going. When the team did so well and especially when you love the players you cannot be like, okay when you play you are very nice guys and when you start to not play you just try to [make things difficult], I'm not like that. Even when I didn't play, I pray for the team because finally we are together and if we manage to reach the Champions League we're going to do it together and that's the most important thing for all of us."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Newcastle United have sealed a spot in the Carabao Cup final, where they are set to face Manchester United on February 26 at Wembley. Saint-Maximin did not hide his excitement at the prospect of helping to deliver Newcastle's first piece of silverware since 1999, but also insisted that they must first stay focused on Premier League commitments. "I’m not going to lie, we think about the final, but we are professional. We know the league is so important, so every game, we try to be focused and win," he said.
IN TWO PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT? Saint-Maximin will hope to make successive starts when Newcastle take on Bournemouth away from home in the Premier League on Saturday.