Eddie Howe may have avoided being compared to Diego Simeone, but Kieran Trippier wears a smile as sly as Newcastle’s underhand tactics when presented with the similarities between the two managers.
“Yeah, I like it,” he says as we discuss his team’s supposed ‘home’. Given that Trippier won La Liga with Simeone at Atletico Madrid, you might well expect him to embrace the intelligence of such manners.
This, however, is an eye-opening treat. It is also a two-fingered – or even two-legged – response to Erik ten Hag, the Manchester United boss who, ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, branded Newcastle “annoying”. In doing so, he has joined Liverpool and Arsenal in trying to capitalize on time-wasting, among other irritations.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” says Trippier, and you know where this is going.
“But I have experienced it a lot in Spain. It’s all about knowing when to slow down a game. If the opponents have more ball and are on top, of course you have to kill the game. You’re not going to do a quick sidestep and say, ‘Go on.’ You have to manage the game.
‘Love it’: Kieran Tripper says he has enjoyed his team’s supposed ‘home’ so far this season
The 32-year-old is set to lead his side into the Carabao Cup final against Manchester United
“Some teams are not happy with us this season, but it’s about being smart at the time, using your experience. The opposition fans aren’t going to like it either, because it’s against their team. But as a neutral, I think it’s good to see. I don’t understand why everyone is fooling it, it’s good!’
With Manchester United the updated squad and betting favourites, will we see the same practices applied today?
“Of course we will,” Trippier says. “You have to have that mindset. If you want to win, if you want to be successful, you have to be cute in every game.
You look at teams like Real Madrid and how successful they were, and they had players like Sergio Ramos, Marcelo and they were the best at it. If you want to succeed, you have to manage the game well and at the right time.’
Howe laughed when asked earlier this month about a Daily Mail article headlined: How nasty Newcastle became masters of the dark arts – Eddie Howe is no longer Mr Nice Guy after spending time in Madrid studying Diego Simeone ».
The manager confirmed that he had been to see Simeone and Atletico, but played down the suggestion he left having chosen those road features. Trippier, it seems, helped himself.
“The best for me was Stefan Savic at Atletico. He used to pull people’s hair, even in training. It was crazy. I love it.’
And how was Simeone? “Don’t mess with him because you’ll leave. I have seen this on a regular basis. I was one of them, I was on the wrong side at Milan away. It’s not pretty, but it’s about respect. I just learned so much from him – my defense, my positioning, I matured.
‘I just learned so much’: Tripper had successful spell at Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone
Newcastle right-back smiled at comparisons between Eddie Howe (R) and Simeone
“It’s the same with the gaffer here. He came to watch Atlético train when he didn’t have a job. We’ve always had that contact and relationship.’ Howe had signed Trippier for Burnley in 2012.
“I’m just honored and proud that he’s given me another chance to work with him and try to make history here,” says Trippier. “I think he’s an incredible manager.”
It is with some justification that many Newcastle fans label Trippier as the club’s most transformative signing in decades. England internationals had long since stopped joining their team, especially when they were stuck in the bottom three. For Trippier, the gratitude of those on Tyneside comes when he least expects it.
“Walking my kids to school the other day,” says the dad-of-three, “the principal comes out and says, ‘Thank you!’
“Even some of the children’s fathers,” say how proud they are, how excited they are to be going to London. There is a very good feeling around the city. When I go out to eat with my wife, it’s exactly the same. They are so passionate and grateful.’
One thing captain Trippier is not grateful for is a question that this, at 32, could be his last chance to lift a trophy.
THEIR DIRTY TRICKS
1 – Jamaal Lascelles has been booked twice for interference in the game while warming up as a substitute. In November, with Newcastle defending a 1-0 lead, their captain prevented Chelsea from making a quick throw-in. Two months later, the defender stopped Arsenal from doing the same as they chased a winner in added time.
2 – Callum Wilson appeared to spoil the penalty spot with his nails moments before Aleksandar Mitrovic’s spot-kick for Fulham at St James’ Park last month. The striker promptly slipped and ended up kicking the ball twice, meaning the effort was disallowed, despite beating Nick Pope in goal. Newcastle won 1-0.
3 – Nick Pope was accused of trying to waste time when he went down twice against Liverpool, the most acrimonious in the 93rd minute with the score at Anfield, which led to 94 seconds of stoppage time. Fabio Carvalho hit the winner in the 98th minute, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp still complained: “The game kept getting stopped for some reason.”
“I might have another 10 years, I might retire at 40, you never know!” bites back.
“We are in a cup final but we want to be where Manchester City are, where Manchester United are, where all the top teams are. We want to play in the Champions League, we want to challenge. So hopefully this is the first of many.
“I definitely think this club has a great future ahead of it. And they have the perfect manager to take them there.’
Just don’t ask Howe about Simeone comparisons, you’ll be wasting your time. Like his team, some may disagree.