Two years ago Newcastle United secured their Premier League status at Queen’s Park Rangers in the penultimate game of the season and there was an impromptu hug between the owner, Mike Ashley, manager Alan Pardew and managing director Derek Llambias.
Pardew and Llambias have gone and there will be no celebration if Newcastle stumble to safety this afternoon, again at Loftus Road, where a win for United will see them safe unless Hull also win.
An end-of-season party hosted by the club’s foundation due to be held next week has already been unceremoniously cancelled. “In view of the current league position, it would not be appropriate for the team and the coaching staff to be celebrating,” a club statement read. They like a statement at Newcastle, though generally not on the field of play.
Earlier, the interim head coach John Carver denied it was bad management for not signing enough players that had caused such a disastrous campaign. “It is not mismanagement by the club,” he said. “I had enough players. Our squad of 26 is not a bad size [but] at one stage I had a full team missing.”
Carver then admitted that Papiss Cissé would return at QPR today ahead of schedule in the hope of solving a goalscoring crisis. “We have not had many goals in training or in games of late,” said Carver. “But when he comes back they start flowing.”
Cissé was banned in March for seven games for spitting at Manchester United’s Jonny Evans. During his absence he had surgery on a long-standing knee problem. “He is not 100 per cent,” added Carver. “He was supposed to be out for 12 to 14 weeks, but he has come back earlier and quicker than we ever thought. He hasn’t got the limp any more and has had four weeks’ training. I didn’t play him in the under-21s because I thought a week’s training would be better. He has worked extremely hard.
“Whether he is ready to start the game I don’t know. It is trying to get that fine balance, because we know how important he can be, but how long can he go for? We could start him, but people say you’d then lose a substitute. I have to take everything into consideration. Is he ready to start? It will be decided. He gives the squad a huge lift. He scores goals. He is a natural goalscorer. Same in training.”
Newcastle have not signed a recognised goalscoring centre forward since Cissé arrived in England from Freiburg in January 2012 when the club was sixth in the Premier League. It could perhaps be described as mismanagement that they have overlooked such an essential position.
The club’s second top goalscorer, Ayoze Perez, whose equaliser against West Bromwich Albion last week gave them their first point in nine games, was not even supposed to be at the club this season, following his summer move from Tenerife. “We were expecting to send him out on loan for a whole season,” Carver admitted. “Yet he’s been one of our main strikers and he’s embraced that.”
Perez, at 21, has had to shoulder that responsibility, but it is now three months, or over 500 minutes of action, since Newcastle scored away from home.
For Carver and for Newcastle there is some respite in the return of Daryl Janmaat, who has served a one-game suspension for being sent off at Leicester City, where Newcastle capitulated in their last away game. The exciting teenage winger Rolando Aarons could play today. Rangers have already been relegated, which also offered hope to Newcastle’s supporters.
“Spirits have been lifted breaking that run [of eight successive defeats],” said Carver. “We broke it and that was important.”
- More about:
- Newcastle United