Club Focus – Newcastle United – Seasiders at St James’ Park after international break

Newcastle United return to league action at the weekend with a home game against Blackpool. Both sides were promoted from the Championship last season and they have both made good starts this campaign, each taking four points from three games. Blackpool were one of the few sides to manage to beat Newcastle in the Championship although the Magpies took revenge winning 4-1 at St James’ Park. With the Seasiders tipped to struggle in the top flight, Saturday’s game represents a good opportunity to get another three points on the board at this early stage.

With few players involved in international action over the past two weeks Chris Hughton has a fresh squad of players to choose from with just a few players still on the sidelines. Star striker Andy Carroll was forced to withdraw from the England Under-21 squad with an ankle injury but he is expected to return against Blackpool. Carroll will be hoping to add to the four goals he has netted so far this term which make him joint top scorer in the Premier League. Blackpool manager Ian Holloway gave Carroll a ringing endorsement in the build-up to the game. He said: “He’s an old-fashioned No 9, and I don’t mean that with any disrespect. He can head it; he is strong; he is a threat when the ball is crossed into the box, getting his barnet or his foot on the end of it. That is a classic English centre forward for me. They are a dying breed and it is brilliant to see him doing so well.”

In other team news Hatem Ben Arfa could make his debut against Blackpool although it is more likely to be from the bench than from the start. Sol Campbell is another player who could make the bench as he continues his step up in fitness. Campbell played in both of the Magpies’ reserve team outings over the international break and is edging closer to full fitness.

With Ivory Coast midfielder Cheik Tiote also in the reckoning to make his debut Chris Hughton has a number of different options at his disposal. It has been a relatively successful transfer window with five new players coming in at a small outlay. So far this season Hughton has dispelled any fears that he would not be up to the job of managing in the Premier League. He has been consistent in his team selection by picking the same starting XI for all three of the Magpies’ league games. Already there are some thoughts turning towards Hughton’s future with his current contract due to expire at the end of this season. While Hughton is keen to sign a new deal he is not worried about the situation at the moment. “At the moment I’m just getting on with the job,” he told The Guardian. “Yes, my contract is up at the end of the season but my priority is just to get on and do the best job that I can and let other things take care of themselves.

“From my point of view where I want to be is manager of Newcastle United. That is where I am and I would like that to continue.”

One player in a similar position to Hughton is defender Steven Taylor, whose current deal also expires at the end of the season. There appeared to be little interest in Taylor, who has been placed on the transfer list, at the end of the last transfer window with Celtic the only club linked with a move for the player. Despite the possibility that Taylor’s contract situation could cause unrest in a seemingly close group of players Hughton is keen to involve Taylor in first-team action. The 24-year-old is still about a month away from returning from a shoulder injury he suffered in pre-season. With Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini both performing well and Sol Campbell also due to come into contention Taylor could face an uphill battle to make the starting line-up when he returns. Midfielder Danny Guthrie is another player currently sidelined with injury and remains a fortnight away from returning. The versatile midfielder is unavailable due to a knee problem.

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