Club Focus – Newcastle – Capital finish for Champions

Newcastle bring down the curtain on a memorable 2009/10 campaign with a trip to the capital to take on Queen’s Park Rangers. The Champions have little other than pride to play for although they will conscious of picking up the one point needed to reach the 100 point milestone.

That would certainly be a great achievement in a season where a number of different landmarks have been reached. Manager Chris Hughton has confirmed that he will stick with the ruthless mentality that has been the key to the Magpies’ success this term. Only second choice goalkeeper Tim Krul will be given a rare opportunity on Sunday despite a number of other young players on the fringe on the first team desperate for a rare chance to shine. There is no guarantee from Hughton that Krul will play the full 90 minutes. Going into the game he said: “Tim will certainly play a part. It is an opportunity for him, but I think out of all the youngsters he will be the only one. We have been big enough and fit enough all season to manoeuvre the squad and get through it. The team we play will be a team picked to win the game.” Krul has made seven appearances this season although most of his appearances have come in the two cup competitions. Highly rated Slovenian midfielder Haris Vuckic will not be involved despite recent transfer speculation linking him to a host of top clubs both in England and across Europe. Steven Taylor may be involved but fellow defender Fitz Hall is injured and misses out playing against his parent club. Meanwhile Jonas Gutierrez has been allowed to finish his campaign early to return to Argentina for a break before almost certainly linking up with his national side for the World Cup.

QPR have certainly been helpful towards Newcastle, achieving promotion with two players who started the season at Loftus Road making the journey north in January. Fitz Hall has provided cover when needed in defence while winger Wayne Routledge has made a significant impact on Tyneside. Routledge joined Newcastle for an undisclosed fee and has contributed to the cause with some important goals and assists. He has provided the side with an extra dimension as before January the right hand flank was largely underused thanks to the lack of an out-an-out quality right winger. Routledge is unconcerned by playing his former employers, perhaps unsurprising given his nomadic existence so far in his football career. Newcastle’s no 10 said: “I don’t look for particular games , I literally take it one game to the next. You just want to play football and do your job. Its just been a case of unbelievable scenes the last few weeks and it’s been great for all of us. We all knew what it meant once we were promoted. We knew we had to keep things going and win the title. We achieved that, and since then we’ve kept up that unbeaten record and finished the season as strongly as possible.”

Plans are already being made for next season with the subject of strengthening the existing squad the subject of much conjecture. One area that Newcastle may be looking to strengthen is the forward line with the side lacking a prolific goalscorer at the top level. Andy Carroll is unproven at Premier League level, Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands have not been exactly prolific while Leon Best has struggled even at Championship level. A good finisher with a quick turn of pace would be an ideal addition to the squad but is unlikely to come cheap. Hughton however believes that in Andy Carroll he already has a top quality striker. He said: “Andy’s a real classic striker in the old fashioned mould and when you consider he’s only a young player with the ability to develop his game. It’s a bit like Peter Crouch. He’s probably 4in taller, but they’re similar – if the quality of the ball is good enough, the trajectory is right then it’s just a question of whether he can get it on target. He’s a player that has a wonderful leap. He is a very good technical header of the ball. He’s an old-style centre-forward, going back to the Sixties and Seventies.”

Carroll does have some off-the-field demons to contend with and he appeared before the Magistrates Court on Thursday. He is accused of an assault in a Newcastle nightclub in December and was released on conditional bail at his hearing during the week.

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