So far Newcastle have had a solid, if unspectacular, pre-season with few hiccups to unsettle the team going into the new season. They have defeated Carlisle, lost to Norwich City and drawn with European opponents PSV Eindhoven and Deportivo. The friendly matches have given Chris Hughton a chance to assess some of the fringe players in his squad to see if they fit into his plans from last season. Youngsters Haris Vuckic and James Tavernier have both seen plenty of first team action, with defender Tavernier impressing in a number of different positions in the backline. Another plus will have been striker Leon Best at last getting on the scoresheet with two goals so far in pre-season, after failing to open his account following his January move. Fellow fringe forward Xisco has also made an impression over the summer following his loan spell in Spain last season. The former Deportivo player is looking to re-ignite his career on Tyneside that has so far yet to sparkle. Newcastle finish their pre-season with an away match at Scottish champions Rangers.
Three new players have joined the club since the transfer window re-opened but only defender James Perch has made an appearance in a black and white shirt. Free transfers Dan Gosling and Sol Campbell have yet to feature with the former out with long term injury and the latter short of match fitness. Manager Hughton is still endeavouring with his search for new talent as he looks to improve a small squad. The priority now seems to be on bringing in some attacking players with the defensive positions seemingly sorted out. Marseille winger Hatem Ben Arfa has been strongly linked with Newcastle in the English and French media and there would appear to be more to the story than just paper talk. A loan deal would be ideal for Newcastle but the French side are keen to cash in on their French international. At 23 years old Ben Arfa would fit the bill in terms of their age demographic for new signings. Another player strongly linked with Newcastle is Manchester United prodigy Tom Cleverley in a possible loan move. The former Watford loanee would be another attacking option to their midfield.
The biggest name who Newcastle have captured so far is undoubtedly Sol Campbell and there has already been a lot of media interest in his arrival. In his first training session with the club Campbell appeared not at his peak physical condition sparking some fat jibes from fans and pundits alike. An angry Campbell sold Soccernet: “It’s pathetic. I had been training for three days – just three days. I am three weeks behind everyone else in pre-season. Don’t they know I have just got married and been on honeymoon? I accept that the picture wasn’t flattering, and I do need to catch up on my level of fitness, but the training kit was not very flattering and showed up all sorts of things. The truth is that I am now in better shape than when I started off back at Arsenal after a long lay-off. I got myself back into shape at Arsenal, and I think I had a reasonably good end half of the season.” With the former Arsenal and Tottenham star behind on his fitness he has already ruled himself out of his new club’s opening games of the season against Manchester United. With Steven Taylor also ruled out for the first months of the season Newcastle will be short on experienced centre halves going into the first few games. The partnership of Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini that played for much of the second half of last season to great success will probably be re-united once again.