The 43-year-old and his staff had two weeks to work with the players ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Brentford, which saw them emerge still awaiting a first win of the season but having produced an enterprising display in a thrilling 3-3 draw.
Howe had to watch the game from his hotel room after testing positive for Covid-19 and it remains to be seen when he will be allowed to return to the training pitch, but Saint-Maximin has been encouraged by his early efforts.
Asked about the former Bournemouth manager’s absence, the Frenchman told NUFC TV: “It was bad because we need him. He’s a good coach for me – I don’t need one year with him to see if he is a good coach or not – he’s a great coach. They have a nice philosophy, a nice idea and you can see that from the first game.
“We played more in attack, we had more chances to score and it was more difficult to defend against us, so we just have to keep going like this and to concede fewer goals and I’m sure we’re going to win more games.”
Newcastle got off to the perfect start when skipper Jamaal Lascelles headed them into a 10th-minute lead, but were pegged back within seconds when former Magpie Ivan Toney who spent three years at St James’ Park but made only four senior appearances before being sold by Rafael Benitez, levelled with the help of some less than effective goalkeeping by Karl Darlow.
Rico Henry headed the visitors in front only for Joelinton to level before the break, and although Lascelles’ own goal looked to have handed them victory, Saint-Maximin equalised with 15 minutes remaining.
Despite their point, Newcastle slipped to the foot of the table and remain five points adrift of safety ahead of next weekend’s tough trip to Arsenal.
But the former Nice frontman, who admitted the club “will go down for sure” without the support of their fans, was able to take positives from a more progressive display – if they can tighten up at the back.
He said: “With the way we played, for every defence it could be a difficult game. But it’s still the same: when we score, we have to do the best things and stay together to not concede a goal because if we score and they score, we score, they score again, it’s impossible to win a game like this.”
For Toney, there was no sense of bitterness as he marked his return to Tyneside with a goal and a goal-line clearance from Callum Wilson.
He told the Bees’ official website: “Whatever happened in the past, maybe I wasn’t ready, maybe I wasn’t good enough, who knows? But at the time, the club had a decision to make and the decision was to let me go.
“But there are no hard feelings. The club still holds a special place in my heart and I’m sure it will forever because without the stepping stone of being at Newcastle, I wouldn’t be where I am today, I don’t think.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies