Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe has hailed Federico Fernandez, after the defender made his long-awaited return against Norwich City last night.
The 32-cap Argentine was actually named on the bench by Howe.
But it wasn’t long before he was called into action for the Magpies.
He replaced Ryan Fraser in the 11th minute in a tactical change, after Ciaran Clark had been sent off.
The Republic of Ireland international pulled down Teemu Pukki as the last man after a failed clearance, a move that left Alan Shearer raging on commentary for Amazon Prime.
Fernandez had not featured for Newcastle since the defeat to Wolves at the start of October.
He had stopped making matchday squads after the Tottenham Hotspur game, with Graeme Jones explaining there was no need to include him at all if he wasn’t starting.
But last night he returned, and he didn’t show many signs of rust.
His contributions were praised by Howe post-match.
He said: “He’s been the ultimate professional. He’s a real leader of the group and a respected figure. He proved today he’s an outstanding player. I haven’t seen too much of him yet but I was delighted to give him the opportunity and I thought he played very well.”
Howe also branded the 32-year-old ‘magnificent’.
Fernandez must now start every game after solid return against Norwich
It sounds like Howe does really rate Fernandez, and the manager needs to be selecting him at every turn from here on in.
There will be some temptation to bring Jamaal Lascelles back in because he is the captain.
But Howe ought to go with Fernandez and Schar as a pairing in a back four.
The back three, which has regularly featured Emil Krafth and Clark, has shipped too many goals and needs binning.
Fernandez’s quality last night was clear.
He can have a big impact for this struggling side. Howe just needs to have the cojones to overlook his captain.