NEWCASTLE United will try to field to the team which plays their first match outside of the top-flight in 20 years at Dundee United tomorrow, writes Stuart Rayner.
And caretaker manager Chris Hughton is hoping the Tangerines give them a tough physical workout.
Organised to celebrate 100 years of the Scottish Premier League club, and coming just over 48 hours after the death of former Magpies manager Sir Bobby Robson, there will be plenty of distractions at Tannadice.
But the game is Newcastle’s last before the competitive football gets under way at West Bromwich Albion a week today. That will be reflected by the team Hughton sends out – and, he hopes, by the attitude of their opponents.
“It’s never set in stone but it’s always a fair assumption that you’re trying to get as close as you can to the team for the start (of the season),” said Hughton. “Sometimes injuries allows you to do that, sometimes they don’t.”
United’s last three pre-season games have all been against League One opposition, and have had their moments. Leeds manager Simon Grayson had to be restrained after an unnecessary body-check by Joey Barton on Fabian Delph, one of a number of less-than-friendly challenges from either side. Hughton felt it was just what was needed.
“It’s very much part and parcel of the game and what we were expecting from a game so close to the season,” he said. “The physical side is part of the game for everybody and it added to the occasion.
“We’re getting closer and closer (to the start of the season). The intensity of the games and the quality of the games have to go that way.
“I’m pleased we’re playing away from home at the weekend because our first game is at West Brom. I’m hoping the game turns out to be as tough as it was on Wednesday, because that’s invaluable in pre-season.”
Damien Duff and Danny Guthrie are hoping to return after missing Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with groin and hamstring strains respectively. Nicky Butt – who wrote the captain’s column in Wednesday’s programme but it yet to be given the job officially – sits out with a hand injury which is expected to keep him out for another three to four weeks.