Newcastle United's increasingly urgent search for a striker capable of matching Alan Shearer's considerable feats in a black-and-white shirt continues. However, the Magpies kick off their 2006-07 campaign against Norway's Lillestrom in this afternoon's Intertoto Cup tie at St James' Park confident they have already identified a suitably inspirational captain to inherit Shearer's armband.
Scott Parker's first season on Tyneside was the obvious highlight of a typically turbulent and ultimately unsatisfactory 10 months in the history of a club burdened by considerable expectation, frustration and failure.
Yet appointing the former Charlton Athletic and Chelsea midfielder as captain yesterday suggests all is not yet lost in this footballing hotbed gone cold.
Parker's game, like Shearer's, is built on controlled passion, sound temperament and a burning desire to deliver. Significantly, he shares the supporters' apprehension about a squad clearly some way short of mounting a competitive challenge.
"We'd all like new players in," admitted Parker. "The squad's a bit thin and we'd like to see more through the door but by the end of the summer there will be more. "The team that kicks off tomorrow won't bear much resemblance to the team [which opens the Premiership season] against Wigan," he added. "The squad's light and we're going for Europe so we need a big squad. It's in the chairman's hands. He's brought players in before at the right time and I'm sure he'll do the same again."
The Newcastle manager, Glenn Roeder, maintains he is working tirelessly to satisfy the appetite for new signings. He also appreciates the need to entrust his current squad to a captain capable of setting a forthright example on the pitch. "I've been captain of the club myself in the past and I know what an honour it is," said Roeder.
Newcastle's fans are obviously restless, rather than openly rebellious, in the face of a summer of transfer inactivity, but the longer United remain dormant as big spenders, the more likely the St James' Park hierarchy is to feel considerable heat.
Season-ticket sales have not matched the buoyancy of the Keegan or Robson eras and with no new faces to ignite interest, this afternoon's campaign opener threatens to be a rather sedate affair.
"Everyone who I think could cope with playing for this club is being taken into consideration and we're looking at players who are experienced and, if possible, who have already played in the Premiership so I know that they can perform at this level," added Roeder.
"I don't want to take chances with players I don't know. That's a recipe for disaster."
Roeder is confident that his present squad have the necessary talent and experience to overcome the challenge presented by Lillestrom, and victory over the Norwegian side in the two-legged tie will present Newcastle with a welcome opportunity to qualify for this season's Uefa Cup.
"We worked hard to qualify for the Intertoto Cup from an impossible position with one hell of a charge at the end of last season," he said. "We don't want to waste that effort by not going through against Lillestrom."
Newcastle United (probable): Given; Carr, Taylor, Bramble, Babayaro; Solano, Parker, Emre, N'Zogbia; Milner, Ameobi.Reuse content