Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, is preparing himself for a difficult transfer window as he attempts to drag the club out of their recent slump. Wednesday night's 3-2 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion left the Magpies without a win in six Premier League games, with the manager admitting his squad is being tested by injuries and suspensions.
Pardew was unable to call upon central defender Steven Taylor, who is out for the season after surgery to repair his Achilles, and lost full-back Davide Santon to a knee problem, while Yohan Cabaye and Dan Gosling were suspended.
A replacement for Taylor is a must next month – Newcastle have been linked with Ajax's £10m-rated Jan Vertonghen – while the loss of 13-goal striker Demba Ba and key midfielder Cheick Tioté to the African Cup of Nations with Senegal and Ivory Coast respectively will blow another hole in the manager's resources for several weeks.
Pardew was giving nothing away about his targets, but said: "We are having to look at our squad because we are stretched, especially defensively. We have made some calls to try to find out who is available, but it's a difficult window. You want to try to get a good player in a window when teams don't want to lose their good players, so it's not just difficult for us, it's difficult for every team. You locate a player, but then they have got to get a replacement and is another first-team going to let a replacement go? There's a knock-on effect."
Pardew hopes to retain the services of Ba and Tioté until 15 January, but the frontman in particular will be a huge miss when he does go. Ba twice dragged his side back into Wednesday night's game with stunning equalisers to take his tally to 13 goals in his past 12 League outings, but still ended up on the losing side as Paul Scharner snatched victory for the visitors five minutes from time.
Pardew said: "He's a great player, and you are going to miss great players. He is going to the African Cup of Nations and he will probably want to win that. Knowing Demba and the way he is playing, he probably could. He has been absolutely terrific for us."
If Pardew was left frustrated by a fourth defeat in six games heading into the Boxing Day trip to Bolton, he was at least able to comfort himself by the emergence of another genuine first-team player after 19-year-old Slovenian midfielder Haris Vuckic impressed in his first League start for the club.
Vuckic hit the bar before the break and forced a fine late save from Ben Foster. The teenager said: "I'm happy that I got the chance. I think I proved to the gaffer and the fans that I can do it. It was a good evening for me, it's just unfortunate that we couldn't get a good result.
"We had our chances, we just couldn't score. We deserved to draw, minimum, but you know in football, you can play badly and score goals and sometimes, you can play very well and not score. If you want to win games, you have to score goals. We just couldn't do it, so hopefully it will be against Bolton."
Pardew had set his sights on reaching the 30-point mark by New Year's Day which will be achieved with a win at Bolton. He said: "I am sure [Bolton manager] Owen [Coyle] has got other ideas about that, but we have had a fantastic first half of the season."