Eddie Howe is ready to gamble on Callum Wilson’s fitness as Newcastle’s main striker this season after missing out on top target Hugo Ekitika.
The French forward, 20, has joined Paris Saint-Germain on loan with an option to buy. The Magpies agreed a deal worth around £25m with Reims only for the move to be delayed last month due to excessive demands from the player’s agent.
But with Ekitike out and Chelsea striker Armando Broy set for West Ham, the bulk of Newcastle’s budget is likely to be spent on a winger – although Leeds’ Jack Harrison and Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby are proving too expensive.
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe is ready to rely on Callum Wilson for goals this season
Wilson scored 20 goals in two years for Newcastle but has an inconsistent fitness record
That means Wilson will almost certainly go into the campaign as Howe’s centre-forward, despite obvious doubts over the 30-year-old’s fitness.
He only returned for the last three games of last season after injuring his calf and Achilles in December, before taking part in intensive work at the start of the team’s training session in Austria on Sunday.
Howe, however, believes Wilson can carry the load and return the 15 to 20 goals expected this term.
‘No one ever doubted Callum’s ability,’ said the head coach from the team hotel in Saalfelden. ‘He is an outstanding striker, and he showed that by coming back from a long injury and playing well at the end of the season. I wish he had an injury free campaign.
‘We’re looking for (15 to 20 goals) from our number 9, for sure – whether it’s Callum on his own or with Chris Wood. We need those goals from our forwards. We believe they are capable of delivering those numbers.’
Wilson missed much of last season with an Achilles problem that started in December
Wilson was on Newcastle’s pre-season tour but missed part of training on Sunday
Of Wilson’s absence from training, Howe said: ‘Every day when we plan training we look at individual needs. We took Callum out and gave him some different work from the group. It was quite a high intensity exercise at the start of the session and we didn’t want to expose him to that.’
Howe, meanwhile, believes PSG stealing Ekitike from under their noses shows the level of player Newcastle are now targeting.
‘We really like Hugo as a player, there’s no denying that,’ he said. ‘We tried to sign him in January and again this summer but it didn’t happen. He decided to go to PSG and has no grudges against the guy. We wish him well.
‘We thought he was a real talent and could have done a really good job for us. But that’s football, that’s the transfer window. Those are the teams we compete against.
‘There’s no guarantee you’ll get your best targets because if you believe they’re that good, so do other clubs.’