Newcastle United started the New Year the same way in which they ended the old one with a goalless draw against lowly opposition.
A 0-0 draw against Plymouth Argyle in the third round of the FA Cup was not the most thrilling way of bringing in the New Year. Chris Hughton used the match to rest his first team squad as he made seven changes from the side which started against Derby County. The likes of Steve Harper, Steven Taylor, Jose Enrique, Jonas Gutierrez and Kevin Nolan were either left on the bench or left at home as they earned a well deserved break from the action. Fringe players such as keeper Tim Krul, defender Tamas Kadar, winger Fabrice Pancrate and Nile Ranger were all given the chance to shine in the south-west.
It was the 19-year-old Hungarian defender Kadar who was the pick of the bunch with an impressive display at centre back. He teamed up well alongside the vastly experienced Fabricio Coloccini, as Krul had relatively little to do in the Newcastle goal. Kadar showed a good reading of the game, excellent composure on the ball and looked calm throughout the match. Despite his strong, burly frame he also showed a surprising turn of pace when needed. The former Zalaegerszegi player joined Newcastle at the start of last season with a glowing reputation in Hungarian football. He could well prove to be one of the best young prospects to come through the reigns of Mike Ashley and Dennis Wise, whose attempts to scour the globe for the best young talents have previously gone unnoticed. With only two senior central defenders on Newcastle’s books Kadar may get further opportunities depending on whether Hughton decides to bring in more defensive cover in the January period.
Speaking about Tamas Kadar Hughton said: “He has always been a composed player. What his strengths are is that he is a good passer of the ball and he’s got pace. And I thought the thing that were going to hurt us (against Plymouth) was (Jamie) Mackie’s pace. Take that into consideration then that was a good game from him. He’s a young lad and he’s learning like Nile Ranger and we prefer to introduce them slowly. But the most important thing is that they get experience. If you don’t play them then how are you to know how good a player they are? How do you make those decisions? And at some stage it is those big important games that you’re prepared to put them in.”
The performance at Plymouth just about justified Hughton’s decision to send out a weakened team as Newcastle although only forcing a replay did produce a decent display. With 2400 making the 800 mile round trip to Plymouth a defeat would have been unacceptable. Frustrating winger Fabrice Pancrate was the Magpies’ most wasteful player as he passed up a number of scoring opportunities. After an impressive statement of intent with a great solo goal against Watford, Pancrate has failed to get his head up in the following games -continuing to run down blind alleys. If Newcastle progress through their replay they will face West Bromwich Albion in the fourth round. That will mean that they will be playing their fellow title contenders twice in the space of a week. You get the impression that they would take a win in the league over a win the cup.
The opening of the transfer window looks to have already brought good news to Newcastle as it appears that out-of-favour midfielder Geremi has left the club. The Cameroon international, who is set to feature in the African Cup of Nations, has joined Turkish club Ankaragracu on an 18 month deal. Geremi has made only nine appearances this season but he last featured for the first team in October. The move is a good deal for Newcastle as Geremi is on a reputed £60,000 a week but has never looked worthy of earning that sum of money in a Newcastle shirt. Despite playing for Real Madrid and Chelsea, when Sam Allardyce signed him in 2007 it appeared his best days were behind him. Few fans will be sad to see the back of a player who made 54 appearances in a black and white shirt. Meanwhile a much more popular former player Nolberto Solano has returned to English shores to play for Colchester United in League One.