The Newcastle manager, Glenn Roeder, has warned his fledgling defenders that their heroics will not stop him signing potential replacements. The England Under-21 international Steven Taylor and, before he picked up a hamstring injury, 23-year-old Peter Ramage have given Roeder sterling service in recent weeks.
Such have been the Magpies' injury problems, that teenagers Paul Huntington and David Edgar have had to be thrown in earlier than anticipated with mixed results. However, Roeder remains determined to raise standards and increase competition at St James' Park.
The manager is looking for defenders, as well as a striker, during the January transfer window, and was at Anfield on Tuesday night to watch Liverpool go down 6-3 to Arsenal in an astonishing Carling Cup quarter-final. Having already been linked with Liverpool's striker Peter Crouch and defender Stephen Warnock, he knows that will simply increase speculation and yesterday the club were linked with Matthew Upson, Anton Ferdinand and Chris Riggott.
None of the three is understood to be among the managers' main targets, but Roeder said: "The boys have done well, and that is all they have done. They have got to keep working hard at their game if they want to stay in the first team and have careers at Newcastle.
"I am looking to improve the quality of the squad at all times and I have got an opportunity now in January.
"When new players come in, players like Huntington, Edgar, [midfielder Matty] Pattison, Ramage and Taylor will all be fighting for their places.
"I am looking to raise the bar, raise the quality of the squad. Defensively, that needs to be done - and it will be done, if not this January, then in the summer."
That said, Roeder has been hugely proud of the way the youngsters have adapted to life in the Premiership in the depths of a selection crisis. Until last February, when he took over from Graeme Souness on a caretaker basis, he was the club's Academy manager - indeed, Huntington and Edgar formed his central defensive pairing at youth level. But while he is delighted with their emergence as genuine additions to the senior squad, he is adamant that even Ramage and Taylor have still only just started their footballing education.
Roeder said: "I certainly will not get carried away with what they have done and I do not want anyone else to get carried away with what they have done.
"Paul Huntington, David Edgar and Matty Pattison have just lifted their foot to put it on to the first rung of the ladder. That is all they have done.
"When kids come in and sign on with the Academy as 16-years-olds and say they have got their foot on the first rung of the ladder, I disagree. They have got both feet firmly on the ground.
"You do not lift your foot on to that first rung on the ladder until you have made your first-team debut. That is what they have done. They all have an awful lot more to do, all five of them.
"Steven is very much just starting his upward learning curve, Peter the same.
"They are not experienced players, and yet compared to Huntington, Edgar and Pattison, they seem like old men.
"But they are not and we must not forget that. They are still very inexperienced players who have done well, but no more than well."
Talks are being held with PSV Eindhoven by the father of the Newcastle striker, Albert Luque, over a proposed loan move to the Dutch club, although the Spaniard's wages remain an obstacle.
James Troisi has signed an 18-month contract to launch his professional career at St James' Park. The 18-year-old Australian winger has emerged from the club's Academy after heading for England as part of a group of hopefuls from the southern hemisphere.
Troisi has yet to make his senior debut, but has been an unused substitute in three Uefa Cup games this season.
Elsewhere in the Premiership, PSV Eindhoven have completed an 18-month loan deal for Chelsea's Brazilian defender Alcides.
The 21-year-old had been on loan with Benfica, but personal problems and limited first-team opportunities at the Estadio da Luz brought a premature end to his time in Portugal.
"I am glad to be here," Alcides said. "This is a big club and a good step for me."
In Stockholm, a man has been charged with assaulting the former Milan and Manchester United midfielder Jesper Blomqvist, Swedish television said yesterday.
Blomqvist had been visiting his home town of Umea in northern Sweden last September when he was hit in the face at a nightclub. A 33-year-old man has now been charged, but has denied assaulting the former player.
Blomqvist, who will be 33 next month, played for Sweden 30 times and was part of the Manchester United team that won the treble of Champions' League, Premier League and FA Cup in 1999.Reuse content