Newcastle United have been told to forget all about last season as they make a fresh start in Scotland tonight.
The Magpies play their first game of this summer’s pre-season at Motherwell tonight.
Defender Davide Santon has told his team-mates to regard it as a clean slate.
“I think we have to forget last season,” said the full-back, who is not expected to feature at Fir Park tonight. “It wasn’t a good season for us because we went from qualifying for the Europa League (in 2011-12) to last season fighting to stay in the Premier League.
“We have to just forget last season and start with a new mentality. We have to make sure we have a nice season and I hope we can finish in the top six. To do that we will have to concentrate every single game to make sure we can do that.”
Although Newcastle are yet to make any senior signings in the transfer window, Santon expects some improvement now the five players who joined in January – Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Debuchy, Massadio Haidara and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa – have had time to adapt to life in England.
“I think every player who comes to Newcastle (from overseas) needs a couple of months before they can feel totally comfortable,” said Santon, who joined from Inter Milan in August 2011. “When they came, I don’t think they had a lot of problems in Newcastle, I think they felt at home immediately and they helped us a lot. Everybody played a big part.
“Now they’ve come back for pre-season they seem completely comfortable. Hopefully that means we’ll have a good season.
“Everything’s different. When I came from Italy it was different weather and the league is different so it takes a couple of months and I think it was the same for them coming from France. The Premier League is totally different to other leagues.”
That Santon is settled in Newcastle is underlined by the fact that, unlike most foreign players, he spent the majority of his summer break on Tyneside.
His partner Chloe gave birth to their first child days after the end of last season.
He said: “It’s been an amazing summer for me, the best. My baby daughter Sienna was born in May, so it’s been good.
“I’ve spent most of my summer in Newcastle, I just had a week in Italy.
“Sienna was born in Newcastle on May 31 and in the first week she was waking up every three hours but now it’s getting a little bit better, she’s sleeping for five or six hours.
“Newcastle feels like home for me, especially now I’ve got family here.
“But I felt at home as soon as I came here for the first time. Everybody was nice to me and I love Newcastle.
“I’m really happy to be starting a new season here.”
With some players only back in training last Friday, others such as Santon ending last season injured, and the squad leaving for a pre-season tour of Portugal the next day, it is not expected to be a full-strength side for tonight’s friendly.
Tim Krul is not expected to feature as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder, and Debuchy, Fabricio Coloccini, Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse could all be given extra time to find their fitness after seeing their seasons extended by international duty.
Cisse, his representatives and the Professional Footballers Association are in discussions with Newcastle over the club’s new sponsors.
The practising Muslim is uncomfortable with the idea of wearing Wonga’s logo on his playing and training kit as Sharia law prohibits the charging of interest on loans.
It is not thought Cisse raised any objections about Virgin Money, who do likewise, albeit generally at much more generous repayment rates.
Steve Harper will have another stab at top-flight football after joining Hull City. Steve Bruce’s Premier League newcomers last night confirmed the signing of the goalkeeper who after 20 years played his last game for Newcastle – acting as captain – in a 1-0 Premier League defeat to Arsenal in May.
Meanwhile, reports in Greece claim Newcastle have bid for Olympiakos striker Rafik Djebbour. The 29-year-old top-scored in last season’s Greek Superleague with 20 goals in 24 appearances.