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Eddie Howe pleads with FA not to 'throw the book' at Sandro Tonali for betting offences

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe has urged the Football Association not to "throw the book" at midfielder Sandro Tonali after charging him with further betting offences.

The 23-year-old, who is currently serving a 10-month worldwide ban imposed by the Italian Football Federation in October after he admitted breaking gambling rules, is alleged to have breached FA rule E8 50 times by betting on matches between August 12 and October 12 last year.

However, Howe, who has been without his £55million signing from AC Milan since October, is hoping English football's governing body will not impose further stringent punishment on a player whose agent, Giuseppe Riso, has insisted is battling a "gambling addiction".

Howe said: "The news that there was an FA charge, that illness didn't stop when he moved from Italy to England, that illness was there and people should look at it that way, not 'let's throw the book at him and let's punish him even further' because I don't think that gets to the root of the problem.

"We need to protect all our players because this is something that's open to everybody and becoming a bigger problem in society, so this isn't just a problem for Sandro."

Asked if he was worried Tonali, who has until April 5 to respond, could be handed a consecutive ban to run after the existing penalty has come to an end, Howe added: "We don’t know, is the honest answer. I certainly hope for Sandro that there are no further consequences.

"He has suffered during this period, he has sought help, he's been very honest, he has admitted he has an issue, and I think the best thing for Sandro would be to resume his career having taken his punishment and having learned a lot of lessons from this."

Tonali's initial 18-month suspension was reduced by eight months on condition that he underwent treatment for his addiction and made 16 public appearances in Italy to talk to young players about the dangers of gambling.

He is currently allowed to train with Newcastle, who face West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday, but cannot play again until the end of August.

Asked how Tonali is dealing with the situation, Howe said: "He is seeking help on a regular basis. This is something that won’t go away for him, so he has regular meetings in Italy and in England to deal with the problems that he has.

"But I have to say mentally, he's been very good in his training sessions, he's been very good off the pitch. He's been a brilliant team-mate to the people here and supporting team-mates and training really well to set a positive example.

"His English has improved a lot as well, which has been great. He can communicate now really well with his team-mates, which is such an important thing.

"I'm really positive about his comeback, whenever that is, that he'll have a huge impact on the team."

Meanwhile, Howe has revealed that defender Sven Botman, who is facing up to nine months on the sidelines following knee surgery, made the decision not to have the procedure in September after scans revealed he had suffered a partial tear of his anterior cruciate ligament.

He said: "You can't force a player to have an operation. Ultimately our medical team advised him to get surgery; he himself wanted to carry on playing.

"We always try to guide and help the players, but ultimately it's their bodies and they have to make the final decision. Unfortunately he succumbed to injury eventually."

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