Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe believes Matt Targett has been ‘really unlucky’ to play such little football this season.

Targett signed for Newcastle permanently last summer, completing a £15million move from Aston Villa after impressing on loan at St James’ Park.

He made the left-back position his own, and his performances led to Bruno Guimaraes telling the owners to sign him permanently.

They did just that, but things haven’t gone to plan since then for Targett. After starting the season in Howe’s XI, he has since lost his place to Dan Burn. The local lad has done brilliantly there, and been consistent enough to retain his place in the side.

Targett has also had injury bother, and suffered with a heel problem at the start of the year. He is back fit now, but has not started a game for the Magpies since November.

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Eddie Howe hails Matt Targett for his efforts last season

The 27-year-old is now set to return to Villa Park for the first time since his departure, and Howe has been asked by BBC Newcastle where the defender’s Toon career is currently at.

“I think Matt is firstly a great lad to work with,” he said.

“I’ve really enjoyed coaching him and working with him. Last season his effect on the team was undoubted. The role that he played in us staying in the division was an incredible contribution, hence why we signed him.

“He’s been really unlucky this season. But Dan [Burn] has come in, the team’s done so well and I’ve picked a consistent back four.

“He’s waiting for his opportunity. I think when he gets it he’ll take it.”

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No margin for error at Newcastle

With Newcastle boasting the best defensive record in the Premier League this season, it is no surprise that Howe is unwilling to tinker with his backline.

The back four of Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schar, Sven Botman and Burn work brilliantly together, and have laid the foundation for an amazing season on Tyneside.

It is cruel on Targett, who many would have expected to be in that ‘best back four’ for the entire season. He dropped out after a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth in September, and hasn’t started a Premier League game since.

Given the high stakes Newcastle are playing for, now is not the time for Howe to rotate. Burn is continuing to play well, and Howe appears unwilling to change things.

He believes Targett will step up when he gets an opportunity, but when that is remains to be seen.

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