Club Focus – Newcastle – Williamson and Ben Arfa out for the season

Newcastle face Birmingham City at the weekend in their final Saturday home game of the season. They must do so without defender Mike Williamson who has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a freak injury. The former Watford player suffered a broken arm at the training ground on Thursday ruling him out of the Magpies’ final three fixtures. Williamson had arguably his worst game of the season against Liverpool last weekend conceding a crucial penalty to make it 2-0. But before then he had acquitted himself well to the demands of playing in the Premier League.

His place in the team will go to Steven Taylor who has had to wait patiently on the bench since returning from injury. Taylor is the only real senior alternative at centre-back with Sol Campbell very much out of favour under Alan Pardew. Newcastle have an option to extend Campbell’s contract by another year but it seems unlikely he will be back next season. The veteran’s last game for the club came in the 4-0 loss to Stoke back in March. Another player to be ruled out of the last few games is Hatem Ben Arfa who has suffered a setback in his return from a broken leg. He will now head back to his native France for treatment.

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Alan Pardew is unlikely to make any drastic changes to his team despite a disappointing performance against Liverpool. With safety still not mathematically assured, the time has not yet come to give some of the club’s younger players a chance to shine. Pardew will be hoping for an improvement from his players who have been below-par in their last two games. Newcastle have a good record over their opponents Birmingham who have failed to beat them in their past eight league meetings. When they met at St Andrews earlier in the season the Magpies ran out 2-0 winners with goals from Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands.

Already thoughts are turning to towards next season with the release of the club’s latest home kit a reminder of how quickly things turn around in football. Newcastle have already started their recruitment drive with enquiries made for a number of players. Pardew is hoping to give his experienced side a freshening up in the summer. In an interview with the Evening Chronicle he said: “This summer is an opportunity to give this team a new look and that’s what we intend to do. We need to add a bit more pace to the side. And we need to add more energy in certain areas in order to get a team capable of competing in the top 10 of this division.” A number of the Magpies’ top targets are believed to be French-based while some of the English Championship’s leading players are also under consideration. The latest names to be linked with a move to the north east include Ipswich’s Connor Wickham and Toulouse’s Franck Tabanou.

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