Newcastle United return from their enforced two week international break with an away game at Preston North End, although they will have to wait until Monday night to return to action. Following an excellent start to the new football season Preston’s play-off challenge has faltered of late and they currently sit 11th in the league. In contrast Newcastle have enjoyed a recent purple patch with three wins on the bounce. The final international break of the calendar year definitely came at the wrong time for the Magpies and it can often be difficult for teams to regain their momentum after a long lay-off.
With few players away on international duty it has been a relatively peaceful time on Tyneside. With takeover issues resolved for the current moment in time, most of the paper talk has centred on who Newcastle may look to bring in the January transfer window. Although owner Mike Ashley has pledged to invest a further £20m into the club, little of it will be spent on new players. A sum of around £1m is believed to be available to Chris Hughton to strengthen his squad. One of the biggest names to be linked is former England international Sol Campbell, who could be set for the Magpies after leaving the Magpies of Notts County in acrimonious circumstances. There would appear to be a mutual interest between the two parties with Campbell admitting a move to Newcastle would appeal to him. Hughton did little to play down the rumours: “It’s one that I wouldn’t rule out. He’s a player that will go somewhere at some stage and he will get a lot of offers, but we won’t rule him out of coming here.” stated the former Tottenham assistant. While there should be few doubts about Campbell’s ability to play in the Championship, the biggest stumbling block could be the player’s wage demands. Another player who could join Newcastle in January is on-loan defender Danny Simpson from his parent club Manchester United. Simpson has been the pick of Newcastle’s loan signings and would be a good addition to the defence.
Newcastle have used the international break to hand a trial to French attacking midfielder Fabrice Pancrate. The 29-year-old is currently without a club after leaving French side Paris St Germain, he has also spent time on loan at Real Betis. Pancrate would bring some much needed pace to the Newcastle midfield and he has impressed both in training and a practice match against Hartlepool reserves. Pancrate has already expressed his ‘love’ for Newcastle by saying: “In my blood, I am black and white.” Newcastle fans will be hoping he is of a similar quality to two other French midfielders who joined the club from Paris St Germain. David Ginola and Laurent Robert both enjoyed entertaining spells at Newcastle where they wowed crowds with their skill.
Local businessman Barry Moat, who failed with an £80m bid to takeover Newcastle, is still keen to take control of the club. For now Mike Ashley remains in the hot seat but his future still remains very unclear. In an interview with SkySports, Moat said: “It’s extremely disappointing. It’s something we’d given up a lot of time and effort and abortive costs with so I’ve been feeling pretty bruised by the whole process. As my wife keeps telling me, ‘No one’s died’ so you’ve got to get on. That’s fundamentally where I see it now. I think from my perspective I don’t think Mike Ashley wants to stay at St James’ Park for the long term, so I’ll never give up. I’ll keep beavering away in the background and hopefully one day we’ll get there.”
Meanwhile, midfielder Danny Guthrie has paid tribute to Newcastle’s foreign trio of Fabicio Coloccini, Jose Enrique and Jonas Gutierrez. All three players have been much improved from last season and have been able to motivate themselves to play at a lower level. The physical nature of the Championship has had little affect with the trio happy to take on the challenges. Guthrie explained: “People talk about the English mentality, about being able to fight when your back is against the wall and showing strength in adversity. But the foreign lads have also shown plenty of spirit and that’s really good to see. You sometimes hear stories about players who don’t really fancy a battle when they come over to play in this country, but Jose, Jonas and Fabricio have really knuckled down. It would have been easy for them to fob it off once we had been relegated, but they have stayed and got on with it.” And it is that spirit and dedication that has helped propel the Magpies to the top of the table.