JOHN Carver yesterday gave Newcastle’s fringe players a gentle reminder about what is expected of them next season – just on the off-chance it had slipped any of their minds.
The club’s assistant manager wants to see those who can’t quite yet consider themselves full-time first-team squad members to show they can be a big part – and not just a bit part – of Alan Pardew’s plans.
Carver named Sammy Ameobi, Shane Ferguson, Mehdi Abeid, Haris Vuckic, Gael Bigirimana and Romain Amalfitano as six who will be looked on to help out over what will be a demanding season.
Or to put it another way, this group of talented but raw footballers will be guaranteed at least an opportunity to prove to Pardew that they can be relied upon to come into the team and not allow last season’s high standards to slip.
Then it will be up to them whether they take it or not.
It’s a general rule within football that no manager or coach will name a youngster he believes to be on the verge of a breakthrough, particularly in pre-season, for fear of placing extra pressure on him.
But there was no point in Carver pretending anything other than the fact everyone who can claim to be a first-team squad member, plus one or two on the cusp, need to step up to the plate.
The likes of Peter Løvenkrands, Leon Best, Danny Guthrie have gone. Only two new faces have arrived, Bigirimana from Coventry last week, and Amalfitano from Reims, who are 18 and 20 respectively.
But they, and the other four who have had limited first-team experience, had better be ready when the call comes – and it will come even if Pardew signs five big names players before the transfer window closes.
Carver said: “We are already feeling good as a group. We have two young boys who have joined us – Gael and Romain – and they have fitted in very well. They have been made welcome and don’t look out of place.
“Gael is the younger one, but he’s played 26 games in the Championship with Coventry so is probably a bit ahead of Romain. We will take it easy with him, but he’s impressed over a couple of days. And we do have some other good kids at the club.
“Sammy Ameobi (pictured far right) did really well last season until he got injured, and there is Shane Ferguson, Mehdi Abeid and Haris Vuckic all need to stake a claim to be in the squad and in the team.
“So Sammy has got competition there and we won’t rush him into any difficult situation, instead we’ll take our time with him.
“All those guys have to be knocking on the manager’s door, what with all the football that we could play this season. If we get through the Europa League qualifying round then there is going to be an awful lot of games we are involved in.
“The lads have got to step up to the plate. They have a season of Premier League experience under their belts now, being put in the team now and again. As I said, Sammy had a great run in the team until his injury, but he’s come back stronger and looks great – a lot fitter. He has got to push on, as they all do, and they have to take every opportunity when it’s given to them.”
The Premier League season lasts 38 games, which is tough enough on its own given that those running English football still don’t see the need for a winter break.
Then there is Europe. Let’s be optimistic and say, at the very least, Newcastle get into the Europa League group stage via the final qualification – those six group matches would be played between September 20 to December 6 – and then into the last 32 of that competition. That’s another ten fixtures. And then there are the two domestic cups. A good run in either of them, or both, puts on, perhaps, five matches.
So that is a campaign of around 53 games and maybe more if the team can continue their winning ways from last time and, as we are not talking about Manchester City here, Pardew will be forced, if that is not too harsh a word, to lean heavily on the club’s youth.
That is unless some serious business can be done between now and the start of the season.
Carver was understandably a bit more tight-lipped about what might happen with regards to players being signed. He said: “We are a football club that does our business in private. Last year, nobody knew about any of the players coming in and that will remain the same.
“There is work going on, indeed it’s been going on since the last transfer window closed if not before. So everyone is working hard behind the scenes. We have a great set-up. Graham Carr (chief scout) signed an eight-year deal so he’s tied down for a long time now, so everyone is working extremely hard to get everything together.
“We have targets we will try to reach. It’s a work in progress.”
Carver was one of many famous faces taking part in the second annual Have a Heart Charity Golf Challenge at Close House Hotel in Northumberland yesterday.
The event was organised by North East businessman Graham Wylie, who aims to raise thousands of pounds for the children’s heart unit at Freeman Hospital that saved the life of his daughter Kiera, who at two years old has undergone three major operations.
Representing the football world were, among others, Steve Harper, Peter Beardsley, Iain Dowie and Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole.
And leading the field of the 33 teams braving fairly awful conditions was Ryder Cup legend Lee Westwood.
Carver was set to negotiate the course with some Newcastle fans and before his round, the club’s long-serving coach knew what the chat would be.
He said: “We were disappointed with that last game against Everton, but you look at the season as a whole and you have to say it was fantastic for the football club. We set a high standard and we want to maintain that standard.
“That’s going to be difficult. So many people came up to me over the summer and to say that finishing above Chelsea and Liverpool was amazing was incredible.
“But then they ask ‘can we go one better?’ Well, only time will tell on that one. Obviously we would like to keep everybody and so far we have. Hopefully that will be the same when the season gets going plus one or two additions.”